Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Reviews: Letters from Pemberley and More Letters from Pemberley by Jane Dawkins

     It’s very unfortunate when you get through all of Jane Austen’s work. Unfortunate, because that means you have no more Jane Austen to read. And when you try to delve into the scary world of fan sequels, you get…mixed results. Take, for example, the delightful continuation of Sanditon I reviewed before; and then take anything by Emma Tennant, and burn it before it infects all of your books. (The only thing worse than badly-written fanfiction is badly-written fanfiction that disregards the Great and Powerful Canon.) Then again, even a good writer can mishandle Austen’s material. (See: Pemberley, Death Comes To)

     Of course you also have the in-between stuff. I’ve read quite a few sequels/prequels that are merely…okay. A lot of Amanda Grange’s prequels are this way; merely interesting reiterations of what the novels themselves already told us. Luckily, I found something that is not simply “meh”, and does not turn any of the characters into Opposite World versions of themselves. (Looking at you P.D.)

     The book is, as you can tell, letters from Pemberley; a one-sided look at Lizzie and Jane’s correspondence during their first year of marriage. It is certainly a comfort read; it was one of those books I pull out when I want to read myself to sleep. Lizzie chats to Jane about the day-to-day life in a big house such as Pemberley; the interesting neighbors (who closely resemble other Austen characters); and preparing to enter a higher society than she is used to. (This is Lizzie; of course she pulls it off charmingly.) It also throws in little details that are only hinted at in Pride and Prejudice, such as Darcy learning to tease a bit more, and Jane dealing with the incorrigible Mrs. Bennett living so close.

     It was a fun, light read that thankfully expanded on the universe while staying true to Jane Austen’s work.

     The sequel, More Letters from Pemberley, follows a period of several years. It is just as comfortable a read, but somewhat bittersweet. The growing family goes through several struggles that will afflict everyone, regardless of wealth or class. Lizzie maintains her vivacious personality but we watch as she matures over the years. This is an excellent sequel to the first book and still stays true to the tone of Austen’s novels.

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