JASNA-Vermont’s “An Afternoon with Jane Austen” ~ The Perfect Visit by Stuart Bennett

Dear Readers:

Coming up this weekend [Sunday September 23, 2012] is JASNA-Vermont’s “An Afternoon with Jane Austen”: wherein we shall hear about ‘Channeling’, ‘Imagining’, and ‘Dressing’ Jane Austen’. Presentations by authors Elsa Solender (Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment) and Stuart Bennett (The Perfect Visit) will take us back in time to meet our favorite author! These two sessions will be linked with a talk by our very own Hope Greenberg as she takes us through the stages of “Dressing Jane” in the proper Regency clothing of her day. 

Yesterday I posted a review of Elsa Solender’s Jane Austen in Love by Diana Birchall; today I am headlining Stuart Bennett’s The Perfect Visit – Stuart will be talking about his foray into historical fantasy/fiction, where he follows his long career in the world of antiquarian bookselling and scholarly publications on bookbinders and publishers in Jacobean, Augustan, and Regency England.  He will ask the audience to consider how much scholarship properly belongs in an historical novel, and what is the right balance between fact and fiction?  “Imagining Jane Austen” will focus on these topics, illustrated by short passages from The Perfect Visit.  Audience participation is invited.

I append here the various reviews of Stuart’s book that can be found on Amazon – links to my interview with Stuart are at the end of the post.

Hoping you can join us tomorrow to hear Stuart and Elsa each talk about their books!


*The Perfect Visit starts a little slowly, but I soon became absorbed in the characters and the plot. Who thought time travel would be so complicated? This novel is well written with close attention to detail. The characters are life-like, with clear motivations. One doesn’t have to love Shakespeare and Austen to make this a good read, but it helps. Hope there is a sequel, or another book by this fine author.    (Esther Sisler)

*Finished The Perfect Visit a few days ago. I found it a literate, well-written historical novel of time travel, romance, interesting content on book collecting (accurate for a welcome change), Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and a villain or two. I liked it and was sorry for it to end. But the author left Ned and Vanessa stranded in 1833 London so there can hopefully be a continuation of the story. Hope so… I have often dreamed of buying books in St. Pauls churchyard and Fleet Street in the 1570’s in London. Or visiting Lackington Allen and Co.’s Temple of the Muses in the early 1800s. Well researched; the historical accuracy gives the reader the feel of Shakespeare’s London or of Regency England. Stuart Bennett has been an auctioneer at Christie’s in London, and is the author of books on collecting photography and on English trade bookbindings. He is presently a dealer in rare books.  (Richard Cady)


*Bennett writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of English culture allowing the reader to ‘time travel’ with the wild abandon of a breathtaking game of ‘pretend.’ His expertise on the subject of English culture is dwarfed by his love of the same terrain. Among the many delights of this read are the great descriptions of faces, architecture, wine, meat, landscape and-love! The various dialects from the respective eras are astonishingly distinctive from one another. If you would like to remember how to be seven years old again and also gain enormous insights into these two eras of English history please read and enjoy ‘The Perfect Visit.’  (Sally Christian)


*Earlier reviews have praised Bennett’s mastery with words, his exceptional evocation of the Elizabethan and Regency periods, his meticulous detailing of the limits both of time travel itself and his invented machine, his fast-moving plot with its ingenious twists. I agree wholeheartedly and will add only that I came away from my reading of The Perfect Visit thinking, “I’m going to miss Vanessa and Ned.” So, for me that’s exceptional character-building, too. But let me speak, very quietly, to the book collector among prospective readers: You are going to be astonished by the absolutely impeccable bibliographic details so casually introduced. For a few of us, Ned’s 1607 bookshop purchases may rival all the derring-do for pure, pure excitement.  (Bee Thorpe)


*I don’t think you have to like Jane Austin (sic), I don’t think you have to be enthralled with jolly old England. I think you will enjoy Stuart Bennett’s delightful time-travel novel if you like the way words can be bent into visions, the way descriptions can create feelings, the way unexpected plot twists can spank your imagination. Bennett is a master with words, and his novel is a perfect visit to a world of wonder, romance and friendship.  (Michael Lester)


*I spent a pleasurable weekend reading Stuart Bennett’s graceful, happy and imaginative THE PERFECT VISIT. For those of us who have daydreamed of finding ourselves walking through Elizabethan London or being in the same room with Jane Austen, this is a delightful means to make real those daydreams, or as real as a well written novel can devise. He gives vivid life to names which have been obscure and dusty and walks us through the streets of London and Bath better than Google maps. Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, of course, are admired for their shaping of the English language. Stuart Bennett meets the challenge of making them the centrifugal forces of his novel with prose that they would enjoy, and, occasionally, recognize. Dear Reader, enjoy!   (Sarah Baldwin)


*For anyone who has read each of Jane Austen’s novels a half dozen times or more, and is looking for something else to read before reading them all again, this is the book! The premise of time traveling turns out to be a marvelous platform on which to present an engaging tale, and to flesh out aspects of Jane Austen’s world which she had no need to describe in detail to her original readers. Stuart Bennett’s descriptions of art, music, popular literature, architecture, manners, the minutiae of apparel (especially feminine apparel), even of equestrian practices, paint a remarkably detailed picture of a particular time and place. As such it provides an valuable complement to Austen’s works.  The Perfect Visit is also a worthwhile work of fiction. As the story unwound towards it’s inevitable conclusion, I found myself drawn into the situation of it’s principal characters, a 21st century couple, trapped in the 19th, and living out a scenario which could easily be a plot out of an Austen novel.  (Alan Cate)


*Historical novels provide a form of time travel allowing the reader to meet the characters, customs, costumes, cities and settings which have already created the foundations of our own time, and to imagine what it would be like now if things had turned out differently. Not only does “The Perfect Visit” encompass these traits with charm and depth, but also includes some thought-provoking aspects of the paradoxes of time travel. This is a captivating story, filled with rich historical details dovetailing with adventure and romance. We become embroiled in the world of rare early literary manuscripts and their authors, as the main characters, modern time travelers, learn to adapt to the customs of the past about which they know some things — but not everything. Tying it all together for this reviewer is a delightful musical thread masterfully weaving the present with the past and its future.  (M. Woolf)


*A Perfect Visit, Stuart Bennett’s entertaining new novel about two present-day sleuths who separately travel through time to collect books and manuscripts from the English Regency and Stuart eras, pays homage to readers’ never-ending fascination with Jane Austen and William Shakespeare. Bennett’s thorough appreciation of both authors and their milieu is evident on every page as his characters, Vanessa and Ned, seek out their literary heroes and, of course, run into grave complications that imperil not only their ability to return to “reality” but also their chances of living together happily ever after. Bennett gives his readers a fast-paced narrative filled with unexpected twists–while also perfectly reproducing the tone and quality of the best Regency-period novels. I highly recommend A Perfect Visit to anyone experiencing Jane Austin (sic) withdrawal symptoms.  (Rockwell Stensrud)


 So reasons enough to pick up a copy of The Perfect Visit!

You can read more about Stuart Bennett here:

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen in Love by Elsa Solender ~ A Review by Diana Birchall ~ ‘A Light and Lovely Literary Biography’

Dear Readers: 

Coming up this weekend [Sunday September 23, 2012] is JASNA-Vermont’s “An Afternoon with Jane Austen”: wherein we shall hear about ‘Channeling’, ‘Imagining’, and ‘Dressing’ Jane Austen’. Presentations by authors Elsa Solender (Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment) and Stuart Bennett (The Perfect Visit) will take us back in time to meet our favorite author! These two sessions will be linked with a talk by our very own Hope Greenberg as she takes us through the stages of “Dressing Jane” in the proper Regency clothing of her day.  

I had reviewed Elsa Solender’s book for the JASNA News [it shall be in the next issue] and so cannot post that review here until it is published, so I have asked Diana Birchall, who read and enjoyed the book very much, to share her thoughts on Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainement.


 A Light and Lovely Literary Biography

The Austenalia, Austenesque, Austen-related fiction field is now so rich and wide that there is something for every taste, passion, and level of knowledge. Jane Austen’s works have always left the reader wishing for more, and by now all her novels have been continued, extended, squeezed and sequelized, transmuted into every possible genre, and almost loved to death by writers and fans of every conceivable skill set and range of imagination and learning. The subject of Jane Austen’s own life and loves has not been neglected, but it is not as commonly treated as those of her fictional characters. Perhaps it is easier to picture to oneself the future lives of Darcy and Elizabeth than it is to write authoritatively and persuasively about the veritable Austen herself, the mysterious and hidden woman of two hundred odd years ago, whose life was never on display, whose relatives burned selected letters and presented a sweetened version of her to the world. A lifetime of study and scholarship leaves one only more deeply aware of just how enigmatic she was. For this reason most modern re-imaginings of her life cannot satisfy – too often they clash wincingly with our own vision, or try to pump up the almost incredibly scantily known romantic aspects of her life into a sensational love story. Only a precious few come close to presenting a plausible enough version to permit us to think that yes, maybe, just maybe, life was like that for Jane Austen.

Elsa Solender’s Jane Austen in Love accomplishes this, and is one of the most valid and satisfying attempted imaginings of Austen’s emotions and interior life – and that of her sister Cassandra, who serves as a natural, if somewhat somber, narrator. Solender has the advantage of lifelong study of Austen, for as writer, editor, and former President of JASNA, she has clearly never branched far away from the Austen tree of knowledge, but has kept it twining around her mind and heart, evergreen. She is also a felicitous, unobtrusive, graceful writer, who wears her great scholarship lightly and is never prosy or dry, but modest and elegant, just as Austen would surely approve. She keeps her fertile imagination closely reined in to the probable, and therefore the reader who wants to see a little more of “what Jane Austen was like,” is given the gift of a delicate and wholly believable version of reality.

Solender has a light touch and a sensitive ability to catch and recreate a tone, a mood, and she displays this winningly throughout. The sober sadness of the older Cassandra is piquantly contrasted with the bright, high spirited portrait of the young Jane in the bosom of her family, each of her brothers lively and inimitable, especially the clever but unstable Henry. Solender artfully intersperses nuggets of literary biography with her sketches, giving us the pleasure of seeing Jane Austen’s family at home, in the act of being themselves. The cast of characters comes to life and disports itself with almost Austenian variety and vivacity: Eliza, Mrs Lefroy, uncles and aunts, are all impressively yet endearingly recalled to life. The light-yet-probable touch is equally imparted to all the romances that touched Austen: the disappointing flirtation with Tom Lefroy, the deeper love for the Sidmouth gentleman, the abortive Bigg-Wither experiment. They are all smoothly stitched into the sampler.

Jane Austen in Love is a charmingly, effectively dramatized literary biography, a lovely book to add to the Austen collection. The only pity is that thus far it is only available as an e-book, when it so well deserves to be on the best shelves and in the best hands. It is a book that you cannot call a labor of love, for it is not laborious. An entertaining effusion of affection, home brewed honey wine for the reader who loves drinking drafts that are sweet and pure, wholesome and sparkling.

About Diana:

Diana Birchall is a story analyst who reads novels for Warner Bros Studios. She is the author of the Jane Austen-related novels Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America, and also a scholarly biography of her grandmother, Onoto Watanna, the first Asian American novelist. Her story “Jane Austen’s Cat” appears in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and her several Austen-related plays have had staged readings around the country and in Canada. She has also given many talks on Jane Austen, at such venues as Yale, Oxford, and the Chawton House Library in England.

Thank you Diana! – wish you could be here on Sunday!


You can read more about Elsa’s book here:


Another review at Austenprose by Aia A. Hussein here:


Elsa Solender

Come prepared on Sunday to hear Elsa “channel Jane Austen” – she would sign books available for purchase but alas! as Diana notes the book is only in ebook format at present – but there will be a door prize, so bring your kindle so you can download it right there and then if you are the lucky winner!

More information on Sunday’s event here:


Up later this week: Stuart Bennett’s The Perfect Visit – Mr. Bennett [no relation to that esteemed gentleman Mr. Bennet] will also be speaking at our Sunday event, on “Imagining Jane Austen”… a full afternoon of Jane Austen indeed!

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont

Winner of the Audiobooks – Austen!…

…is Felicia! – Please email me and I will put you in touch with Elizabeth Rodgers on how to get the free app [if you do not have an iPhone, please let me know and I will draw another name]

Thanks all for responding – I recommend you buy the app for 99c and start listening right away! Visit Audiobook Pop! to order. [Also note that the app will be free on the opening day of the JASNA AGM in Brooklyn – available on October 5, 2012]

[Risa, I will have Ms. Rodgers answer your question.]

Copyright c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen Audiobooks ~ the iPhone app from Audiobooks Pop! ~ Guest Post by Elizabeth Rodgers

Gentle Readers: I welcome today Elizabeth Rodgers, one of the creators of the “Audiobooks –Austen” app for the iPhone, a veritable Jane Austen anthology just a tap away, as she explains how the app works and what is included, all for a mere 99c!

I have my Jane Austen in every format available to man – multiple hard copies of each novel [remember those space-taking, dust-collecting things?], audiobooks [originally on cassette tapes!, then CDs, then iPod, now iPhone], now on my kindle [I confess shamefaced], and of course the movies, most adaptations to re-view annually… there is no end! 

It has been interesting to see the various apps for the iPhone – the books, the games, the audiobooks – all slightly different, just to confuse the user and turn the selection process into a nightmare of choices… audiobooks especially – the narrator being the selling point.  I mean who can compare to Patrick Tull reading Patrick O’Brian, or Frank Muller his Great Expectations? – or Jenny Sterlin reading Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell mysteries, and Richard Armitage Georgette Heyer [and though his readings of Sylvester and Venetia, are alas! abridged, they are still worth the price of admission…].  As for Austen, there are any number of options to choose from – some are free, some quite costly – so how to decide??  Well, here is an option that takes some of the confusion and decision-making out of the equation, as you shall see – I highly recommend it!  And Ms. Rodgers has graciously offered Jane Austen in Vermont readers a chance for a free giveaway of the new app! – so any questions or comments will make you eligible for the random drawing – see below for details!


Audiobooks – Austen is a Jane Austen audiobook anthology. For the Jane Austen enthusiast, this is an easy purchase. Not only do you get Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, but you also get lesser known stories like Lady Susan, The History of England as well as a biography of Jane Austen by her nephew. Once you buy the app for $0.99 in iTunes, the audiobooks are free. No more CDs, no more paying for each new audiobook download. The narrators in the app are great and you can stream or download audiobooks on the go. And Android users: we’re so close to the Android version — it will be available Fall 2012. The audiobooks included in the app are: –

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Emma
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Persuasion
  • Jane Austen’s Juvenilia
  • Lady Susan
  • Love and Friendship
  • The History of England
  • The Watsons
  • Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters
  • Memoir of Jane Austen (by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh)

About Audiobook Pop! Audiobook Pop! was founded in 2010 to provide a solution to the following three points of pain:

  1. buying audiobooks is expensive,
  2. owning, renting and borrowing CDs can be a hassle,
  3. being offered thousands of books by other apps is overwhelming.

Audiobook Pop! curates its content and carefully selects only the best narrators so that there is minimal decision-making, ease of use and affordability. Too much choice is not a good thing. I first had the vision for an audiobook app when I took a road trip with my family, including my two young children. There’s nothing wrong with watching DVDs on the road, but I’m determined to raise them as readers. A non-technical person, I partnered with Boisean designer and developer, Mazal Simantov. Together we architected the simplicity and intuitiveness of the app and Simantov created the elegantly simple design. The keys to success were threefold: ease of use, great content, efficient user choice. In February 2011, the first app, Audiobooks For Your Kids, was launched.

Once the original app had been established, we received feedback from users that similar apps with different themes would be well received. To meet that demand, in Spring 2012, we released Audiobooks – Sci-Fi, Summer 2012, Audiobooks – Austen, and up next is an app with global fairy tales and folk tales and then, a Bronte Sisters anthology — Anne, Emily and Charlotte.  Users can learn more about Audiobook Pop! and Audiobooks – Austen by following the company on Twitter @audiobookpop and on Facebook for news on current releases and to suggest themes for new apps.  We donate a portion of our sales to Librivox.org.


Thank you Elizabeth for sharing this with us and offering the free giveaway! – I can add that the app is very easy to use and it is quite delightful to have all these works at one’s fingertips!

Please leave a question or comment for Elizabeth by next Sunday September 16, 2012, 11:59 PM – the winner will be announced on Monday September 17th … 

Everyone is eligible, or at least all of you with an iPhone, iPad or iTouch,  and the Android, the app for which will be available shortly.

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont