As I have mentioned in a previous post, I love audiobooks. They are so handy to play when driving to work, cleaning, getting ready in the morning, cooking, etc.
And of course when I see a Jane Austen audiobook, I have to give it a listen.
I was scrolling through MeetLibby when I spotted the audiobook Recipe for Persuasion. I reviewed the actual book a while back and had mixed feelings about it as I liked some aspects of the novel, while I felt other parts of the novel were a bit under developed or rushed. It wasn’t a horrible adaption, far from it, but unlike the first book in the series, to me this one felt like something was missing. However, those feelings didn’t deter me from giving this a listen.
With audiobooks, one of the most important things to me is to have is a good narrator. Even if it is a book I love and have read over and over again; the narrator will determine whether I will listen to the full audiobook or if I will stop after a few chapters.
In this Soneela Nankani was a great narrator, as she was very clear and gave distinct voices for all the different characters; an impressive feat as she had many accented characters to voice .
My only real complaint is that to me, Nankani was actually a little too clear as when she is speaking her American accent she hits every syllable of each word. For some it might not bother them, but once I heard it-I couldn’t unhear it and started counting the syllables of each word.
As mentioned before, Nankani chose to do the character’s accents; for instance Ashna and Trisha have an American accent, Shobi an Indian one, DJ British, etc. The one accent I didn’t agree with was Rico’s as she gave him a British accent instead of a Brazilian one. Now I understand that making a Brazilian-British accent (as he is described having in the book) is more difficult than a British accent, so if this was a choice made because it would be easier on the author, I think she should have at least given him a Brazilian accent when he spoke Portuguese. Even if Rico adopted a British accent after living in England, he definitely would have slipped into a sort of Brasileño accent when talking about home or speaking in Portuguese.
Most of the time when listening to an audiobook something new is brought to your attention or hearing the words instead of seeing them causes you to rethink a scene. I didn’t really have anything new come to my attention other than I had forgotten that Rico’s least favorite food is macaroni and cheese. I mean it’s not the strangest choice, there are people who don’t like it; but after listening to the audiobook all I could think was, out of all the food to dislike, it’s going to be noodles with cheese on top? No fideo con queso? Whoops, Rico is Brazilian, I mean macarronada com queijo? The first time I read this part I passed right over it, but this time listening to it-all I could do was think about was how much I wanted homemade Mac and cheese, or sopa de conchas con queso, with very little broth
If you enjoyed the book, and my two points about the accents and syllables aren’t something to really bother you, be sure to check this audiobook out.
For those who are celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day. To honor my mother, today’s book was a recommendation from my mother. I am always thankful for her patience toward my obstinacy.
Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers is something I started a while back for fans of Jane Austen who are looking for something to read.
There are Jane Austen’s works and numerous variations, but while those adapts are fun, sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but something different. But what can you read instead?
That’s why I started this series. I will be reviewing books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but are not another retelling.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A few years ago I reviewed Ella Enchanted as part of my 30 Day Challenge: Literature Loves (something I ended up running out of time to finish but will one day complete. I think I’m only short two books). And at the time it made me think of Pride and Prejudice, well at least Prince Char made me think of Mr. Darcy.
I always meant to write a post about how it reminded me of elements of Jane Austen, but I ended up forgetting all about it as I was sidetracked by other reviews and life. You know how it goes…
But now not only do I have this new series to put it under, Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers but I also have reread it and decided it’s finally time to finish the post I drafted three years ago.
But for those who do no want to go to a separate post, I’ll do a quick synopsis. Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella and one of my favorite retellings.
In EllaEnchanted, Ella is “blessed”, really cursed, with obedience. She must always do what someone tells her to do, it is physically impossible for her to deny an order. This has made life really hard for her, as she struggled to make the best of her situation. Ella has a sharp mind and tongue, her words sometimes being the only thing that can get her through some days.
Ella’s mother dies at a young age and Ella is raised by her father, who does not really care about her, but himself and status more. She is sent away to finishing school where she is controlled by two girls who discover her secret, Hattie and Olive.
Ella escapes finishing school and charms ogres, reunites with the Prince (who she earlier befriended), and discovers that her father has lost his fortune and plans to remarry. Not only is the horrible woman Mum Olga going to be her stepmother, but her stepsisters are going to be the terrible Hattie and Olga. When these ladies discover Sir Peter’s lack of finances, they poor their angry into ordering Ella about. Will Ella survive life with these horrible ladies? And will she ever discover a way to break the curse?
This book has action, adventure, romance, and more. I highly recommend it.
But why do I recommend this book to Jane Austen fans? First of all Ella reminds me of Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. All three women are beautiful, witty, from a life of privilege, and brave enough to face on people head to head. But while they are all witty and intelligent, they all tend to act rashly and make decisions that make things difficult for them later on. All of these ladies: Ella, Elizabeth, and Emma; tend to make quick judgements, like to be right, and can have issues with humility.
Areida, Ella’s only friend from finishing school, is extremely sweet and caring, just like Jane Bennet. Areida is bullied at finishing school as her family isn’t wealthy and she has an accent as she is from Ayortha. However, when one of the mean girls who likes to humiliate Areida becomes ill, Areida stays up all night to take care of her. That is such a Jane Bennet thing to do.
Sir Stephen is one of Prince Char’s knights, and while he isn’t in the book long; the way he talks about his dogs reminds me of Sir John. Both men are kind, sweet, and absolutely love their hounds.
Sir Peter, Ella’s father, is extremely similar to General Tilney. He is not a kind man, and only cares about wealth and status. Both men will eagerly trade their children’s happiness to achieve what they want. Like General Tilney, Sir Peter can pretend to be kind and charming to woo a rich woman, in order to gain the wealth and status he desires.
The step family of Olga, Hattie, and Olive remind me of the Elliot’s from Persuasion: Sir Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot, and Mary (Elliot) Musgrove. Like Sir Walter, Dame Olga only cares about status, looks, and having the right presence in society. Hattie and Olive both love to use Ella and have her take care of everything, slowly sucking the soul out of her; just like how Elizabeth and Mary treat Anne. Hattie and Elizabeth only care about themselves and are constantly putting down their sisters. Like Mary, Olive constantly wants attention and likes it whine about how she has the short end of the stick, compares her life to her sisters. When Anne is with her sisters she is often treated as a servant, the same stays that Hattie and Olive downgrade Ella to.
And last, but not least as he is the one that inspired this post: Char. Char reminds me of Mr. Darcy. While Char is full of responsibilities, having been taught at a young age how to be and how his actions reflect on the kingdom (just like Mr. Darcy and Pemberley), they also both share the same characteristic of “when their opinion is lost it is lost forever.”
However, this sentiment does not apply to the woman they care for.
And while Char can be open and fun, he tends to be closed off when he is with people he doesn’t know and only really shows his true self to a select full-like Darcy with Bingley, Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam, etc. Char also loves and cares for his younger sister, just like Darcy.
It’s one of my favorites and I strongly recommend it.
I never was really interested in audiobooks until I downloaded overdrive (now MeetLibby) to become better familiar with it, in order to assist library patrons. However, I started listening to them when getting ready in the morning, traveling, cleaning, etc.; and was hooked.
My book club met last month and my pick was Pride and Prejudice. I lent out my copies to the book club members and was going to read off my kindle app, as I always have it with me, but then I spotted this audiobook on MeetLibby and figured why not give it a listen as well? After all:
I really enjoyed this audiobook version as I felt Kate Kellgren did a wonderful job at distinguishing the different voices. As you may recall from earlier reviews, if I don’t like the way the reader/narrator does the voices then I cannot listen to them.
I especially loved Kellgren’s Caroline Bingley voice as she sounded posh, cold, and mean. Exactly how I imagine her to sound when I read the book.
Listening to an audiobook can sometimes bring to light passages you forget about or help see it in a new light. For instance we always laugh about how Elizabeth’s mind changes seeing Pemberley.
But listening to it I was reminded that while she thinks better of Mr. Darcy, she isn’t completely won over until she meets his housekeeper, sees how he honors his father’s wishes and keeps the miniature of Mr. Wickham up (even though he hates him), and how he treats her “Cheapside” relatives with respect. After this she changes from believing she inaccurately judged his character to admiration for the type of person he is.
And of course after he helps her and her family, she fully moves from admiration to love!
If you are looking for a good audiobook to listen to, I highly recommend.
I was given this book free in exchange for an honest review.
Are any of you Community fans? Community is about a former lawyer, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), who faked his degree, and has to go back to community college in order to get a real one. He creates a fake Spanish Study Group to try and get with a girl, but ends up having all these others join them and eventually they all become friends and have a lot of crazy adventures together.
In one episode, two of the friends are having a housewarming party and when the pizza arrives Jeff, not wanting to fetch the pizza, has them throw a dice in the air to see who must go downstairs and retrieve it. This introduces multiple timelines with one of them being the darkest timeline.
So what does that have to do with this book? It starts off in the darkest timeline of Pride and Prejudice.
Our story begins sadly. Jane never met or married Mr. Bingley. Instead she married the gentleman who wrote her a few lines of poetry when she was 15.
“When she [Jane Bennet] was only fifteen, there was a gentleman at my brother Gardiner’s in town so much in love with her, that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer before we came away. But, however, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”
Pride and Prejudice
While this man, Mr. Cuthbert, isn’t horrible, he also doesn’t value his wife as much as Bingley did. The two live in London with four sons and an awful mother-in-law.
Mr. Bennet died of a heart attack two years prior, which caused Mr. Collins to never take orders (become a minister) and he inherited all of Longbourn. At the time he visited Elizabeth was supporting Jane during one of her pregnancies so Mr. Collins married Mary, leaving Charlotte unmarried and no prospect in sight.
Now that Mary is mistress of Longbourn she has become very self important, tyrannical, and uses her position to control her remaining family members: Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, and Lydia (Kitty is married and lives in Portsmouth).
Elizabeth is not as strong or as fierce as she used to be as grief and circumstances have caused her to fold in on herself. She also is having problems with her heart, and is secretly afraid that she has inherited her father’s heart condition. She also feels unsettled as she is forced to move from Longbourn to London, not really having her own home; along with having to kowtow to the Collinses.
Mr. Bingley has not rented Netherfield but its gatehouse is where Mr. Darcy and Georgiana reside. It turns out that when Georgiana was seduced by Mr. Wickham, she became pregnant. Mr. Darcy decided to lie to family and friends saying they are vacationing in the warmer climate of Spain, while planning to hide out in Meryton until after the baby was born. Unfortunately, Georgiana suffered from a miscarriage and is currently extremely ill with tuberculosis.
To make this even harder on the Darcy’s, with Georgiana hardly going out due to her poor health and Mr. Darcy keeping his true net worth hidden and also not partaking in society; horrible rumors about the two abound in the community.
But while the beginning is a tad grim, let me assure you it does contain a happy ending. I have to admit when I first started this novel I was unsure where it would go as this opening was most unexpected. However, at the same time I was also extremely intrigued as to see what all these threads would produce.
Elizabeth has just returned from visiting Jane when she hears about the latest news of Mr. Darcy moving to town and is warned by Mr. Collins and Mary to steer clear of them. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have a horrible interaction at the apothecary, when Mr. Darcy, eager for medicine to aid his sister, rudely interrupts Elizabeth’s conversation. While Elizabeth doesn’t believe all the stories circling Darcy, she has decided he is an extremely rude man she would like nothing to do with.
Later at a party thrown by Sir William Lucas, Elizabeth spots Mr. Darcy and it appears that he is listening to her stories of London, strangely seeming interested in topics that wouldn’t typically suit a man. She manages to question him later about his interest in her tales of London and he reveals he is picking up tidbits to share with his sister, who’s health keeps her from anything.
Mr. Darcy also witnesses Elizabeth in heart pain, but after her pleas he agrees to not to reveal her illness to anyone.
That evening Mr. Darcy sees his sickly sister pleased at the crumbs of conversation he managed to solicit and decides to join up with Colonel Fitzwilliam (the only one who knows of their ruse), to try and hunt Mr. Wickham down. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been thinking about Georgiana and how lonely she must be, just like Elizabeth. While Darcy comes to his decision to go after Wickham, Elizabeth is determined to befriend Georgiana.
The two immediately develop a friendship, with Georgiana revealing the true story of why they are in Longbourn. When Mr. Darcy returns (having not located Mr. Wickham), he at first clashes with Elizabeth; him not wanting charity, suspicious she might be hunting for information to ruin his sister’s reputation, and worried that these visits are doing more harm than good. Elizabeth returns somewhat to her old self as she sees him as controlling, rude, and is not afraid to speak her mind on it. Eventually, for the sake of Georgiana, the two make a truce and often enjoy debating or discussing issues.
While Elizabeth enjoys her time with the Darcys, she continues to be unhappy in her life and her heart pains appear to be increasing. She finally comes to the decision to consult the apothecary Mr. Jones, but he is unfortunately called away to care for his sick son before he can give her a prognosis. He promises to write and when a letter does come to the apothecary shop Elizabeth, embarrassed to speak to the assistant, purloins the letter and discovers that she only has a few months to live.
At first distraught over the fact that her life is ending, she then decides she will do whatever she can to ensure her remaining days are how she wants to spend them. She approaches Mr. Darcy and asks for his hand in marriage, not out of love but so that she can care for Georgiana, have her own life, and be buried with dignity rather than pity.
Mr. Darcy is shocked at how brazen Elizabeth is but after she reveals her reasons, and he spends time with her family-he can’t help but feel sorry for her and agrees. For him; his sister will be happy for her remaining time, Elizabeth will have a much happier place to live, he only has to care for her a few months (and she is beautiful and enjoyable to be around), and can use his widower status to keep his Aunt Catherine or any other ladies at bay (“I cannot remarry as my heart is “broken”). The two enter one of my favorite tropes, a marriage of convenience, and of course they eventually fall for each other.
But this path is full of obstacles. As the two grow closer and fall for each other, will Elizabeth continue to feel the same way when she discovers Mr. Darcy is not a poor gentleman but has kept his lineage and estate hidden from her? Will the two be able to swallow their pride and compromise to create a true marriage? And will their love even matter when Elizabeth’s days are numbered?!
My thoughts on this book? I LOVED it.
I knew how it would end and figured out the reveal of a plot twist immediately when it was introduced, but honestly that doesn’t matter. From page one I was sucked in and stayed up all night finishing it.
This book made me laugh, I cried, I went through every emotion and enjoyed every page.
I also think Moll touched really well on complicated grief and the guilt and blame that can come when a sadness of a death is mixed up in a hatred toward life’s circumstances. I used to work with grieving families and children and the scene when Mr. Darcy is trying to cope and work through his inner torment at the death of his sister and nephew is extremely well written.
I really enjoy the slow burn of a romance, and I savored watching the romance progress from civility to passion.
I also liked the way Moll wrote the supporting characters, especially the relationship between Lydia, Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth. In this Lydia is still constantly thinking of getting married, clothes, and still a bit of a narcissist; but as being the only other unmarried sister and stuck under the care of Mr. Collins she and her sister have bonded closer together. We also see that while Lydia is concerned for her welfare first and foremost she loves her sister and wants to help her in the way she best can.
I highly recommend this for fans of Austen variations as I throughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading it again.
Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
by Carolyn Korsmeyer
I was on Instagram when I came across a post by Heather Moll, in which she was looking for Jane Austen fans to read an ARC of her newest book. I of course am always looking for new things to read (even though my to-read list is crazy long) and reached out to her.
We discussed when she would like the review posted, but after we messaged each other something kept niggling in the back of my mind, I had forgotten something? But what?
After I received Moll’s ARC it suddenly hit me! Back in December, Wiley Saichek had reached out to me to review Carolyn Korsmeyer new book Charlotte’s Story. With him emailing me at the beginning of the holiday season it had completely slipped my mind.
Feeling all kinds of horrible for promising to review the novel and having not done it, I decided before I could check out Moll’s work I needed to read and review this immediately.
When I first read the premise of the the novel, I was intrigued as I have always liked the character Charlotte Lucas and I do not feel she gets enough appreciation. She is often seen as the “what not to do” character, but for a woman with limited options she was cunning and wily. She may not have married for love, but she also didn’t have a disastrous marriage like in The Buccaneers. While she married a man that isn’t passionate, she was for it ate to marry one who wouldn’t hurt her, abuse her, or cheat on her. And while he is silly and bumbling, Charlotte could have had it much worse.
For those of you who have never read or watched Pride and Prejudice, or may not know the character of Charlotte Lucas I will give a brief summary. The story of Pride and Prejudice revolves around the Bennet family, a large family consisting of five daughters living on an estate that is entailed (can only be inherited by a male relative). Mr. and Mrs. Bennet always believed they would have a boy and didn’t plan for an outcome of only girls nor have they been very prudent with their money. Mrs. Bennet is eager to marry all her children off ASAP, as when Mr. Bennet dies they will have a very different lifestyle and it will be harder to find them suitors. Two men come into the neighborhood, along with English officers and a distant cousin who will inherit when Mr. Bennet passes. Mrs. Bennet tried to ensnare marriage proposals but things do not go as planned. There is comedy, drama, and more!
Charlotte Lucas is the best friend of Elizabeth Bennet (second eldest Bennet daughter), and when Elizabeth rejects their distant cousin, Mr. Collins’, marriage proposal Charlotte swoops in. She invites Mr. Collins to move into Lucas Lodge and ends up engaged to him! After their marriage Charlotte moves to Hunsford, to Mr. Collins’ parish. When Elizabeth, Maria Lucas (Charlotte’s sister) and Sir William (Charlotte’s father) visit the Collinses, they are invited to dine with Lady Cathrine de Bourgh who not only is Mr. Collins’ patroness but also Mr. Darcy’s aunt; Mr. Darcy being one of the gentlemen who Mrs. Bennet was originally trying to snare and one that Elizabeth can’t stand.
After this vacation, Elizabeth returns home and we do not hear of Charlotte until the end of Pride and Prejudice. So there is a lot of wiggle room to create a “new” story.
This novel starts off with Elizabeth’s rejection and Charlotte deciding to net Mr. Collins. The two are quickly wed and then go to his home. Charlotte begins busying herself with taking everything into hand (as a bachelor does not always keep the best house). She tries to start a friendship with Lady Catherine’s daughter, Anne, but finds it difficult as Anne has a low constitution and a bulldog of a companion.
Charlotte finds it lonely in her new life, missing her friends and family and is also sad not to be pregnant as soon as she wishes. She also finds herself regretting aspects of her marriage, such as the fact that she was not wooed, won, or worked for. It reminds me of Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and how her husband did not understand the value of his wife as she was won “without effort”. Charlotte also realizes that in her quest for marriage, home, stability, etc.-she never really thought about what type of man she should be looking for.
When Elizabeth and Maria arrive, Charlotte becomes the viewer watching the scenes unfold, being told later by Elizabeth what has happened-from Darcy rejected proposal to Darcy’s secret.
In this adaptation Darcy and Anne are close cousins, although he has no desire to marry her. It was nice to see it as in Austen’s original piece all is told from Elizabeth’s point of reference (colored by her dislike of Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine). From Charlotte’s point of view Anne is very nice, although naive, and the two eventually become friends.
The relationship between the Collinses become fractured when Charlotte falls extremely ill and while appreciative of the care Mr. Collins gave Charlotte is furious that Mr. Collins never contacted her family about it. Mr. Collins apologizes and shares about his childhood and that his parents never planned for children, his mother died in childbirth, and he has no familial bonds with anyone. It never occurred to him to notify her family. Charlotte forgives him, but everything splinters over the Lydia/Wickham and Elizabeth/Darcy situation. Mr. Collins wants to distance himself from his family (and rebuke them for their actions); while Charlotte wants to support her friends. After the dust has settled, and a quick visit to Hertfordshire, with no children on the horizon Mr. Collins sends Charlotte to Bath to partake in the waters. She journies with Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Norris (Mrs. Bennet’s sister), Maria, Kitty, and Mary. Anne and her nurse/companion Mrs. Jenkins also plan to meet them there.
In Bath, Charlotte partakes of the water and again becomes a spectator into the lives of her party. Kitty, Maria, and Mary enjoy concerts, balls, parties, and young suitors. Anne is thrilled with being free from her mother and finds her own suitor, also being followed closely by Colonel Fitzwilliam. *Wink, wink*.
Eventually their time in Bath ends and they all must return home, Mary joining the Collinses-and with one more twist in life’s plans will Charlotte eventually finds happiness or just sorrow?
So what did I think of the book? I thought Korsmeyer did a great job at trying to mimic Jane Austen’s style and stay true to the novel while putting her own spin on it. The only part of the book I really disliked was that several times Charlotte was moved to observer instead of an active member of the story. For a book that is supposed to be about her, at times I felt she felt became part of the scenery instead of staying the main player.
Korsmeyer does take liberties with creating her own story and some changes to the characters will not appeal to everyone. While I don’t agree with her depiction of some of the characters I did not feel that she did anything that was too contrary to the character’s “possibilities”. One example is the character change of Mary Bennet, who people seem to disagree with the most. In this version, Mary is taken to Bath and after she receives positive attention from her mother (and young men) with a new style of dress and a different way of acting; she embraces a new personality. For someone who is often only tolerated, left out, and the source of jokes in her family, I could see that with this change to actually being wanted, Mary would try to do whatever she could to keep it. Such as, completely changing her personality and making decisions she previously would not do. After all, I have known people in my life who have behaved like that. It might not be the route I would have taken, but I do not feel it is out of the realm of possibilities for the Austen character.
Reading this book there were two points Korsmeyer made that I found extremely fascinating. The first is that Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy are the same amount of socially awkward, but in different areas on the spectrum. While Mr. Collins covers his insecurities with a constant stream of words, Mr. Darcy covers his with silence and scowls.
“At one point, I had the oddest impression that in their own ways each man [Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy] was evincing his discomfort with company. How very strange to speculate that my garrulous husband and this stern statue might both be simply ill at ease in society.
Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Carolyn Korsmeyer
It is a fair comparison to make as we see Mr. Darcy react different when in company he knows/likes-however in the original novel we never see how Mr. Collins reacts when he is at home just with Charlotte.
The other point I found really thought provoking was when Mr. Collins discusses his childhood. In this adaptation, Mr. Collins’ mother died in childbirth, his father hated/blamed him + ignored him, and Me. Collins spent his whole life trying to get people to like him. Then one day he meets Lady Catherine who actually listens to what he says and enjoys his company. If this backstory were the case then in a way Lady Catherine has filled that vacant “parental” slot in Mr. Collins’ life. He now has someone who will “rear” him, give him advice, financially care for him (she’s his patron), etc. And not only does he have a “parent” in his life, but has gained “family” with Lady Catherine’s family. Just to be clear I’m not saying that Mr. Collins actually believes the de Bourgh family and relations to be his family, I’m saying that subconsciously he’s adopted them and believes they feel the same about him. Also if he never really had family growing up it would explain why he has no idea how to act with the Bennets, talking to them like he read a book on how to converse with one’s relations. But again, this is all supposition.
I found Korsmeyer to be a talented writer who is able to write a story that can hold your interest. This book will not be for everyone but I do believe that if you enjoy Pride and Prejudice adaptations it is well worth a read to see a different view into the Collinses and a deepening of characters that are often at the back of the action. Besides having more Charlotte, I really enjoyed the fleshing out of Anne de Bourgh, Maria Lucas, Kitty Bennet, Mary Bennet, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Whether or not you agree with everything in the story, I still think most will enjoy the stroll down a “what if” path in the Jane Austen universe.