With that...onto my first review.
One of the most fascinating and wonderful aspects of Jane Austen’s novels is their relevance. It is rare to find a book that touches a chord in its readership a hundred years down the line. Those that do touch a chord are rightly called classics.
The unfortunate part of this resilience is that sometimes chords are touched in some very strange ways. (Not that way, you pervert!) The strangest, of course, involves fanfiction, and I will not go into most of that, only to say that a particular crossover between Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice has left me somewhat…traumatized. The only thing that saved my sanity was the fact that this was posted on PotterSues, a site dedicated solely to mocking horrible fanfiction to the utmost.
It also takes the form of strange sequels in which an entire novel of character development is undone (What? Emma and Knightley separated? Bingley cheating on Jane? Who Writes This Crap?), at which point the sequels become nothing more than glorified fanfiction themselves.
However, for every bad sequel, interpretation (Fanny is not a hypocritical Pharisee fool!), and psyche-scarring drivel, there are spin-offs, sequels, and modern updates that are refreshing and fun. I’ve already raved about the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries, and I did quite enjoy Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries. I need not go into all the movies, save to say the majority I’ve seen are decent and fun to watch. However, the modern updates can sometimes get tricky. Modern sensibilities, as a whole, are rather different from those in the Regency era. If someone mentioned their little sister ran off to
with some soldier boy, many people would shrug and say “Eh, she’ll live and learn.” Only in a few circles would the little sister be an object of pity, contempt, or shock. Chicago
This is where Debra White Smith can succeed quite nicely. Jane Austen’s novels, whatever people may say, are thoroughly Christian novels. They are embedded in Christian mores and ethics, and trying to take that away makes them seem rather empty. Austen’s personal letters and writings show a definite Christian side that cannot be explained away by habit. (But of course, the real question is, did she have a personal relationship with Jesus? BOOM! Surprise Come To Jesus moment!) Debra White Smith, as a Christian author, can carry over these storylines without losing that particular part of them. Does she always succeed? Not always. But those that succeed do so quite well.
Reason and Romance:
This one, quite obviously, is the update of Sense and Sensibility. I thought this succeeded well on most counts. Elaina Woods unexpectedly falls for the shy musician Ted Farris, who wishes to be a music minister, but whose family wants him to become a famous concert pianist. Anna Woods becomes nearly obsessed with Willis Kenney the Dr. Pepper ad star. (Gotta admit, I got a kick out of that.) Meanwhile, the local doctor, Brian, pines quietly away for Anna. Smith did a good job of carrying this one over. I especially thought the Mrs. Jennings character was well done (and she gives a shout out with the woman’s love for green olives). However, the one part that doesn’t work so well is the secret engagement. It just doesn’t make sense in a modern context. In the original book, we see Edward as upright and honorable for keeping his engagement to Lucy, especially when his inheritance was practically all the money he had. To jilt her would be treating her dishonorably, as the engagement is secret and she has no way of defending herself, and once the engagement is public, jilting her publicly would have an effect on her reputation, which is all she has. In this book, “Ted” seems much more of a weenie. He is perfectly capable of getting a job on his own, and his staying with the Lucy character seems less honorable and more like he is one of those men who have chronic “knight in shining armor” syndrome-Woman in distress? I’ll save her with my love!
I’m not entirely sure how the secret engagement could carry over into modern terms, since we don’t have the same problems of maintaining gentility as they did in nineteenth century
. Overall, it was a good book. England