Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" by Jo Beverley

Maybe it was the seasonal theme of this story that made it resonate so, but I really enjoyed "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss", Jo Beverely's contribution to Jane Austen Made Me Do It. The story is set in the neighborhood of Chawton, where Elinor Carsholt and her three daughters have settled following her husband's death. The story is not only sweet and endearing, it is also thematically in line with the notions Austen explored in her novels, while simultaneously questioning (and reaffirming) the realism of her happy endings, making it a fitting tribute to her greatness.

The Carsholt's are in reduced circumstances due to their deceased father and husband's lack of prudence: a familiar story. Elinor (aptly named) strives to provide them with a proper Christmas though her spirits are low and the future seems bleak. The family not only resides in the vicinity of the Austen ladies, they are also readers of Miss Jane's novels, whose identity is a poorly kept secret. Elinor laments the effect Pride and Prejudice may have had on her daughters' notions of what is attainable and realistic, as in this scene in which she admonishes her eldest for wanting to walk alone:
"It simply wouldn't be proper, Amy. You're a young lady now and must consider such things."

To Elinor's surprise, Amy nodded. "You mean some men might have wicked intentions."


"Like Wickham in Pride and Prejudice."

"Yes," said Elinor, wishing she'd not allowed Amy to read that book.

Sir Nicholas had brought it to Ivy Cottage as a gift. It was an amusing representation of family life, but Elinor considered the heroine pert and one of her sisters positively wicked. Their both being rewarded with marriage - in one case, a brilliant match - was designed to put fanciful notions into young women's heads, and she'd said as much to Sir Nicholas, adding that the authoress must be a little too flighty in her ways.
What Elinor does not account for is the magic that a neighbor named Jane can work upon her life, allowing those who are undoubtedly deserving of the fairy tale ending they never dreamed of attaining. This charming story not only entertains, but also reflects upon the body of Austen's work in a unique and thoughtful way. I will revisit it next Christmas as a means of getting into the spirit of the season and will also seek out more of Ms. Beverley's books (as soon as I find more time to read again - may it not be a time too far away), as she is an author I had not previously encountered.

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