What a strange thing love is!
[Emma, vol. I, ch. XIII]
[Please see below for book giveaway instructions]
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to think of Love in Jane Austen terms. I think we can say that it is a “truth universally acknowledged” that Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne in Persuasion* is the grandest expression of Love in all of literature – who would not want to receive such a letter as this? But what of Love in Jane Austen’s own life? – we know so little; where did Mr. Darcy come from, or any of her other heroes? What of True Love in her own life? We can only imagine… so I lead you to a fine imaginative rendering of ‘Jane Austen in love’ in Elsa Solender’s Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment. When published last February, it was only available as an ebook, delightful to read but nothing to put upon the shelf. We had to wait until this past December to see it finally published in real book form at Amazon.com.
At the time of its release as a kindle book, Elsa graciously “sat” for an interview here at Jane Austen in Vermont – you can read that here. And as my review was to be published in the JASNA News (just out in the Winter 2012 issue), I did not post a review of the book on this blog; Diana Birchall very graciously did so for me here. But as my review is now published and available online, I append it here in part and then direct you to the JASNA site for the remainder [Note: all book reviews in the JASNA News are available online from 1998 to the present: click here.] – and Elsa has offered a copy for a book giveaway [see below] in celebration of Valentine’s Day!
“The Many Loves of Jane Austen”
Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment, by Elsa Solender.
Review by Deborah Barnum
Imagine a young Jane Austen reading aloud her History of England, Cassandra sketching Henry as Henry V, their Mother as Elizabeth I, and Jane as Mary Queen of Scots; or young Jane at school nearly dying of typhus; or hearing Jane’s thoughts on first encountering Madame Lefroy; or sparking a laugh from the intimidating Egerton Brydges. Imagine the suitor you might like your Jane Austen to meet by the seaside, she falling madly in love but destined to suffer the pangs of lost love, forever irreplaceable. If your mind tends to such as you try to fill in the many blanks in Austen’s life, you might find that Elsa Solender, in her Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment, has done a wondrous job of doing it for you.
Ms. Solender, former president of JASNA and a prize-winning journalist, has taken her story “Second Thoughts,” runner-up in the 2009 Chawton House Library Short Story Contest, and expanded this one moment in Austen’s life to other places and times, all through the lens and voice of Cassandra Austen—it is part real, part imaginary, and part Austen’s own fiction, dialogue and story all beautifully woven together in this tribute to love in the life of Jane Austen—her love for her sister, her family, her cousin Eliza, and her mentor and friend Madam Lefroy; her flirtation with Tom Lefroy; the proposal from Bigg-Wither; and her Mysterious Suitor of the Seaside.
This is Cassandra’s story…
Amazon Digital Editions, 2012. 319 pages. Kindle. $6.99
Amazon Create Space, 2012. 368 pages. Paperback. $12.99
About the author: Elsa A. Solender, a New Yorker, was president of the Jane Austen Society of North America from 1996-2000. Educated at Barnard College and the University ofChicago, she has worked as a journalist, editor, and college teacher in Chicago, Baltimore and New York. She represented an international non-governmental women’s organization at the United Nations during a six-year residency in Geneva. She wrote and delivered to the United Nations Social Council the first-ever joint statement by the Women’s International Non-Governmental Organizations (WINGO) on the right of women and girls to participate in the development of their country. She has published articles and reviews in a variety of American magazines and newspapers and has won three awards for journalism. Her short story, “Second Thoughts,” was named one of three prizewinners in the 2009 Chawton House Library Short Story Competition. Some 300 writers from four continents submitted short stories inspired by Jane Austen or the village of Chawton, where she wrote her six novels. Ms. Solender was the only American prizewinner, and she is the only American writer whose story was published in Dancing With Mr. Darcy, an anthology of the twenty top-rated stories of the contest.
Ms. Solender’s story “A Special Calling” was a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Short Story Competition. Of more than 1,000 stories submitted, Ms. Solender’s story was ranked among the top fifty and was granted Honorable Mention. She has served on the boards of a non-profit theater, a private library and various literary and alumnae associations. Ms. Solender is married, has two married sons and seven grandchildren, and lives in Manhattan.
For Valentine’s Day, Elsa has graciously offered a copy of her book [as she did with her ebook] to the winner of a random drawing – please comment below on what reading Jane Austen has taught you about Love. Or you can pose a question to Ms. Solender. Deadline is Thursday February 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm; winner will be announced the next day. Domestic mailings only [sorry global readers, but our postal service has skyrocketed their overseas prices!]
Thank you Elsa, and good luck everyone!
[Image: C. E. Brock, Persuasion, vo. II, ch. XI; from Mollands.net]
*Captain Wentworth’s letter: [because I cannot resist]
‘I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. – Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? – I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. – Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
‘I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.’ [Perusasion, Vol. II, ch. XI]
Jane Austen has taught me that love is the most beautiful thing in the world. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Reading Jane Austen has taught me that who you choose to love romantically and especially attach yourself to legally is the most important decision of your life. She was very wise both emotionally and financially and all young women can benefit from her counsel . . .Happy Valentines Day to all! :)
Jane Austen taught me what my ideal gentleman is, and to determine to settle for nothing less. :)
Jane Austen has taught me that love truly can be a motivation to change,
develop and become a better person.
Jane Austen taught me that the character of the love interest was the thing to be most valued in a love interest and would last. I had married for character before I ever read Jane Austen. It had been helped by my husband’s terrific looks and his constant humor. We’ve been married 32 years so I think that is a testimony to marrying for character. Oh, and we love each other, too!
This book strikes me as almost a biography of Jane Austen — something Cassandra might have written. and then burned along with her sister’s papers. I wonder if genealogist Egerton Brydges was her inspiration for the vain Sir Walter Elliot, with Jane and Cassandra laughing about Brydges’ efforts to be named Baron Chandos.
Speaking of those burning papers: Ms. Solender, what do you think was the biggest secret in JA’s papers — the greatest reason Cassandra burned them after Jane’s death?
June: Pleased that you perceived my “entertainment” to work—nearly— as a biography that Cassandra might have written — and burned— since that was my “conceit” and intention. I think Cassandra destroyed everything she thought might impinge on family privacy — especially hints regarding the real life inspirations for Jane’s characters — but the most closely guarded secret, I believe, would have been the identity of the gentleman at Sidmouth who seems to have inspired Jane Austen’s ardent admiration and — Dare we say it? — the true love she must (I believe) have experienced in order to write of love so splendidly.
The book sounds great, I can’t wait to read it.
Besides that romantic love, Jane Austen writes about sisterly love. Which for me, has been a great reminder to cherish my sisters.
Love is precious and never to be taken for granted.
Hello all – thank you for your great comments on Jane Austen and Love! – I have been very delayed in drawing the winner but am doing so today – good luck to all!
June – I will pass your question on to Elsa – an interesting one and one we all ponder now and then – what is the greatest secret in those letters…