Picks Up Where Jane Austen Left Off
By Mitchell Uscher
The Times Herald-Record
Jane Austen has been an inspiration for readers and writers for two centuries
now, and former Walker Valley resident Jane Dawkins certainly counts Austen
among her literary heroines.
In fact, Dawkins has said that Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is
her favorite novel. Dawkins has written two books, "Letters From Pemberly:
The First Year" and "More Letters From Pemberly: 1814-1819,"
that continue the lives of the characters from "Pride and Prejudice."
Both books are written in the form of letters. In the first, Austen's beloved
character Elizabeth Bennet is now married to Mr. Darcy. Living in a world
of privilege and wealth that is new to her, Bennet tells of her first year
running the Pemberly estate. In the second book, Elizabeth's life is described
for another six years.
The prolific Dawkins has also written the novel "One Perfect Afternoon,"
which is not related to Austen's work but is set during the same Regency Period
in England. Dawkins has said she loves doing research and will go to great
lengths to make sure the period details in her works are correct.
"One Perfect Afternoon" tells of Lady Davina Woodburn, who loves
the countryside but is uprooted to London, where she is supposed to find a
husband. Lady Woodburn's independence is similar in spirit to Austen's Elizabeth
Bennet and it often puts the heroine at odds with the society of her day.
As Woodburn's father says in the book, "It is simply not fitting for
Lady Davina Woodburn to be known as a wild, headstrong young woman, who on
horseback is the equal of any young blade, who has no equal as a judge of
horse flesh, who is as comfortable attending the birth of a foal, cow or kitten
as she is staunching the bleeding arm of an under-gardener."
Does Lady Davina find true love? Does she end up in the city or in her much-loved
countryside? Dawkins takes readers on an Austen-like roller coaster of romance
and expectations before finding out the answers.
Dawkins, who lived in Walker Valley for more than 15 years, was born in Palestine
but grew up in a small country town in England in a county next to - where
else? - Jane Austen's Hampshire. She now lives in Key West.
* * *
"Letters From Pemberly: The First Year" ($14.95), "More Letters
From Pemberly: 1814-1819" ($14.95) and "One Perfect Afternoon"
($15.95) are published by iUniverse.
Review, Romance at Heart.com:
Letters From Pemberley,
More Letters From Pemberley
Author: Jane Dawkins
The days are filled with
uncertainty for Elizabeth Darcy. The surroundings are strange, and although
she has been well brought up, the fact that she is now Mistress of Pemberley
is still sinking in. There is a great deal of difference to the reality than
what her upbringing would have her believe. Still she grasps the reins of
Pemberley firmly, yet gently, not at all sure of her learning, or hard won
abilities to manage such a great home. She writes fondly of her new husband,
but the house and its workings are still not within her comfort zone. She
is a bit timid, not really sure if she is ready for this responsibility that
she has been raised to accept. Her self-doubt as a young bride, along with
the foibles of those around her is chronicled as she writes to Jane. That
simple contact does much to ease her mind, and helps to allay the fears of
the young bride, as she settles into her home. Elizabeths growing assurance
is chronicled as we watch her slowly taking the reins of Pemberley into her
capable hands. Slowly but surely, we see her becoming more assured in the
role as Mistress of Pemberley as she starts to make plans, accepting her future,
and becoming more at home.
The puzzlements and the complexities of the running of the house are daunting
at first, and she is not sure that she really is free to do as she wishes
with the decor, the schedules, or any of the other venues that the lady of
the house has to deal with from time to time. As the year wears on, her confidence
grows, and soon Elizabeth is ready to make plans to meet with friends, and
writing with much more self-assurance to Jane. Plans have been made to visit
Jane in May, and as April gets underway, Elizabeths excitement increases.
She is anxious to see Jane in her own home, and although meetings in London
are nice, it will be good to be able to relax in her company. Even though
her life is full, there are still some things that cause her discomfort, and
she has hinted as much to Jane. The wise counsel Jane imparts is always appreciated
as she works her way through the maze, that as being the lady of the house,
she needs to navigate. She is often bewildered, but soon begins to chart her
Parties are planned, there is to be a summer ball, and numerous other entertainments
as are expected to be held by the Darcys due to their station. It is
with a wry sense of humor that Elizabeth approached some of these things.
She has suffered through guests dropping in, her father visiting without her
mother, then suffering her mothers complaints about her fathers inconsiderateness.
In spite of it all, there seems to be a growing appreciation and comradeship
between her father and her husband, and she is pleased. Through it all, Elizabeth
is growing in self-reliance, confidence, and poise, and is slowly taking her
place as the Lady of Pemberley.
I must confess one thing right off. I do like Jane Austen, but I have NEVER
been a big fan of first person accounts. As scattered diary entries in a book,
they add flavor. Putting all that aside, I found that the two books, Letters
From Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley to be filled with wit, humor,
and a delightful dj vu to the original Austen work. The key here is insight,
and talent, and so I found myself greatly enchanted, thoroughly engrossed,
and in part, hugely disappointed when I finally came to the end.
I have great admiration for the audacity of Jane Dawkins. She has taken the
work of Jane Austen, and carried it further in two wonderful books, Letters
From Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley, and done it very well. There
are probably those purists who would argue otherwise, but I found
the perils, foibles, and the growth of Elizabeths character during the
first year a delightful read. What is an even bigger treat, is the second
book, the late Regency period, and a time when Janes first child is
born, and Elizabeth herself is to become a new mother as well. The young and
uncertain Elizabeth is left behind, as the woman matures into her place among
family and friends. She still deals with a quarrelsome mother, who it seems
is never satisfied, and corresponds with regularity to her acquaintances,
friends, and family. Her gentle, wry humor keeps her a favorite to her friends.
Ms. Dawkins has used Elizabeth to paint a delightful portrait of the late
Regency Period in England, the trials and tribulations that were faced by
people in the gentry, and the general outlook of the time period itself.
Both Letters From Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley give us insight
to a world that was fraught with change and upheaval. From Lydia, the sister,
who defied her parents and married a soldier, and now faces troubles with
his gambling, to the sister-in-law, Georgiana, who is finally betrothed to
her dear Colonel Fitzwilliam, Elizabeths life has been full, but Georgianas
happiness is secured at least. Both Elizabeth and her husband are thrilled
about this, as Georgiana was somewhat uncertain about having a season, and
this definitely put an end to those thoughts. Now Elizabeth can be content
and concern herself with the upcoming birth of her own child. The uncertainties
of motherhood are all to real, the high mortality rate of both mother and
child are well known, but Elizabeth still looks forward to the blessed event.
Ms. Dawkins has done a remarkable job in capturing the character of the maturing
Elizabeth. The bright and gay young woman with the hint of mischief has become
a graceful young woman, confident and happy in her marriage, and with a new
family now as well. Letters From Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley
are a pair of works that Jane Austen fans should not pass by. They are a well
written pair of books, the characters strong and true to the originals, and
yet Jane Dawkins has managed to put her own stamp on each. There are the true
pearls of Jane Austens own making scattered through the works in a truly
delightful way. There are the characters that we loved in the originals, brought
into the light and shown as they are, in all their glory. Ms. Dawkins has
also brought out various aspects of the characters that were only hinted at
in Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice, giving us a more in depth and detailed
look into their lives. Letters From Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley
should be on your favorite Jane Austen fans list of must buys. They
are available now at iUniverse.com http://iUniverse.com/ and will be a welcome
addition to any Austen fans bookshelf.
Yours in good reading,