Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Perfect Novel for Valentine's Day
I have the perfect one for you. If you love Jane Austen, this one is for you.
I first heard of Old Friends and New Fancies whilst talking to my friend Carly on the phone. We talked about art and life, and books (of course), and she recommended a really sweet Jane Austen sequel. Of course, I was intrigued. It's also free on Project Gutenberg, which is just my price.
On Saturday I collapsed into a chair with said novel and pretty much didn't move unless forced until it was all done.
The Darcys enjoy their idyllic establishment at Pemberly, until Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam decide that their idea of domestic happiness is not wrapped up in one another. After their engagement is broken--greatly to the ire of Lady Catherine de Bourgh--they are left with the question, who in the wide world will make them happy?
Filled with plottings, friendships, dancing, and old scandals relived, Old Friends and New Fancies weaves together the lives of the Crawfords, the Wentworths, the Ferrars, the Knightleys, and the Darcys in a way that is at once plausible and deeply satisfying. While I've read other sequels that aren't nearly as good, this one, written in 1914, has all the vintage charm and reserve that made Jane Austen herself a favorite author of the last couple of hundred years.
Everything about this book is charming. From beginning to end, the character interactions intertwine with tight cause-and-effect plotting that leave nothing dragging or implausible. It's like a stack of dominoes that collapse one onto the other to bring about the character interactions and feelings.
Georgiana's character was my favorite. She's sweet, with a genuine growth of maturity and kindness under her shy exterior, and I think we see into her very lovable heart in a very lovable way. Jane and Lizzy with their respective establishments are perfectly satisfactory, and while Lizzy takes on some Emma-like qualities, at least she knows where to meddle. The other character I especially loved was Mary Crawford--who has some of the same imperfections and pride as we know in Mansfield Park, but which have been tempered by the Bertram scandal into something more refined, with hope for a better future. I am heartily glad to have made their acquaintance and followed them a little further down the road than Jane Austen took them. We also get cameos of Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Jennings (though not in the same scene). You'll love how the characters all intertwine.
Old Friends and New Fancies contains very brief language, comparable to the original Jane Austen novels. There were a couple of characters I didn't quite like the interpretation of, namely Thomas Bertram and Emma Knightley. Emma seems almost sharp and grudging at times towards Georgiana, and Thomas Bertram, in getting inveigled with Isabella Thorpe, can't recommend himself to anyone's good taste. Personally, I think Tom had a complete reformation at the end of Mansfield Park, and it does him a discredit to present him as a rather selfish, shallow, rich heir in this book. But they were small, needlesome elements in an otherwise perfectly lovely book.
Old Friends and New Fancies is a lovely way to binge-read on a Saturday, or even on a quiet Valentine's evening. I highly recommend downloading it to your Kindle and enjoying a further glimpse at the world of Jane Austen in a way that is sweetly satisfactory. It's free over on Project Gutenburg.
Best enjoyed in company with chocolate cake and tea.