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Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe – A Review

jlaShare this: Imagine a world where Jane Austen and her favorite characters exist in a Downton Abbey atmosphere… Impossible, you say, and yet, apart from the passage of years, they are all gentlemen and gentlemen’s daughters, as Elizabeth Bennet so succinctly puts it. In Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, our favorite author does not die at age 42 in Winchester, but is kept, somehow in stasis, until Dr. Lyford can not only cure her last lingering illness, but revive her again in the prime of her life. The scientific details are not spelled out, and honestly, it doesn’t matter, as Ms. Odiwe’s book will captivate you from the first. Finally we are able to see Jane “live again” sans vampires and magic, and enjoy her introduction to modern life in the 1920’s. Ms. Odiwe is unabashedly nostalgic about paying tribute to her favorite novels and stories of the period, from Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle to Downton Abbey, all the while painting a lovely, if complicated plot involving recognizable characters from Austen’s own novels. A “novel” concept, indeed! The story begins with Jane awaking in a new century, shortly after the close of the Great War; her recovery is glossed over, but her shock at having become a “famous” novelist is of course delightful. Unfortunately, the copyrights have expired and who would believe the truth, anyway? She is forced to take a position as companion to five young ladies living at Manberley Castle (shades (more…)
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Jane Austen’s China and the Steventon Archaeological Dig

This view of the Steventon Rectory seems to be the correct one.

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This view of the Steventon Rectory seems to be the correct one.
This view of the Steventon Rectory seems to be the correct one.

From the Desk of Jane Odiwe
I was very excited to read about some of the discoveries made during the dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, which took place in November 2011. The rectory was pulled down in the 1820s and what is known of its appearance is only recorded on old maps and drawings or writings made from the memories of Austen descendants. It seems that the actual foundations of the rectory have now been located as a result of the dig – formerly, the only clue to its situation was the presence of an iron pump.

Jane was born in Steventon Rectory and lived happily for the first twenty five years of her life until her father decided to retire and move the family to Bath. It was here that she drafted her first three novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, all between the ages of 19 and 23.

Anna Lefroy, niece of Jane, wrote about her memories of the house:
“The dining room or common sitting-room looked to the front and was lighted by two casement windows. On the same side the front door opened into a smaller parlour, and visitors, who were few and rare, were not a bit less welcome to my grandmother because they found her sitting there busily engaged with her needle, making and mending.

A vintage map showing the area surrounding the farm.
A  map showing the area surrounding the farm.

Continue reading Jane Austen’s China and the Steventon Archaeological Dig

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Project Darcy: A Review

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indexJane Odiwe writes from the heart. This is evident to anyone who has ever read one of her novels, but particularly so in her newest work, Project Darcy. Published just in time for Christmas, it is surely her gift to Austen fans everywhere.

The story centers on a group of friends who join an archeological expedition at the site of Steventon Rectory. The five girls mirror the Bennet sisters in personality and even name choices, and just as in Pride and Prejudice, Ellie (our heroine) and Jess share a special bond.

The purpose of the dig is to discover the actual layout of the Austen’s home, and it is clear from the writing that Ms. Odiwe is intimately familiar with the Austen haunts mentioned throughout the book, from Steventon to Ashe and Deane, Bath and London. Relationships among the other workers and staff form the backdrop of a fairly straightforward retelling of Pride and Prejudice, cleverly repackaged though, in order to drop twists and turns throughout, and laugh out loud moments at just the right time.

This is, however, a time travel story, as well. Like her previous book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, Ellie has the ability to travel between the 21st century and Regency England. Unlike the other book, however, these time jumps are uncontrolled by temporal items, and are brought on by the proximity of so many Austen locations. In Ellie’s jumps, she literally becomes Jane Austen, creating a story within a story, as she relives many of the poignant memories of Austen’s past, and seeks to shed light on her oh-so-mysterious relationship with Tom Lefroy.

Although the archeological dig takes place in summer, Ellie’s jumps, for the most part, return her to the winter of 1795/96 when we know, from Jane Austen’s own letters, that she met Tom while he was visiting his aunt. The descriptions of Christmas at Steventon and the Manydown  ball are delightful, and it is fun to fill in the gaps in what we do know, fleshing out a story of love won and lost. Traces of Austen’s “later” works are visible and it is clear that Ms. Odiwe let her imagination have full reign in giving Jane the romantic past that we all might wish for her. While many scenes are reminiscent of Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane, we are also treated to the history of Jane’s turquoise ring which came to public attention this past year.

Continue reading Project Darcy: A Review

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Spillikins

Jane Austen's Spillikins can be seen in the upper right hand corner.

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Jane Austen was a very hands-on aunt, with numerous games and activities in her repertoire. Her nieces and nephews recall with fondness the many games, from paper ships to Battledore and Shuttlecock, that she would play with them by the hour. One activity, Spillikins, was remembered with fondness, by Jane, herself:

“Our little visitor has just left us, & left us highly pleased with her;-she is a nice, natural, openhearted, affectionate girl, with all the ready civility which one sees in the best Children of the present day; -so unlike anything that I was myself at her age, that I am often all astonishment & shame.-Half her time here was spent at Spillikins; which I consider as a very valuable part of our Household furniture, & as not the least important Benefaction- from the family of Knight to that of Austen.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
February 8, 1807

In her letter, Jane Austen refers to her personal set as “a very valuable part of our household furniture.” The “Austen Spillikins”, along with other artifacts of Jane’s daily life can be found on display at the museum in Lyme. Ivory fish, like those Lydia gambles with in Pride and Prejudice, and letter blocks, similar to those used in Emma can also be found in the display. It is clear the Austens were serious about their fun and games.

Jane Austen's Spillikins can be seen in the upper right hand corner.
Jane Austen’s Spillikins can be seen in the upper right hand corner. Photo by Jane Odiwe of the  Jane Austen Sequels Blog.

So just what was this engrossing game? Spillikins is played the same way that early versions of Jack Straw and the American “pick up sticks” are. The difference comes withe the playing pieces. Jack Straws were originally played with uniform pieces of straw (though now  wooden or plastic farming tools are generally used.) Pick up sticks are made of wood or plastic, of uniform length, sometimes with knobs on the ends. Spillikins, were crafted from wood or ivory and could be blunted or rounded depending on the set.

When playing with sticks of uniform size and shape, like those that belonged to Austen, the rules are, as follows: Continue reading Spillikins

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Searching for Captain Wentworth: A Review

thumbnailShare this:   For those who love, time does not exist   Searching for Captain Wentworth is unlike any Jane Austen inspired novel I’ve ever read. I suspect it’s unlike any Jane Austen novel ever written! Part love story, part time travel fantasy, part Austen biography, it’s all about the author’s (Jane Odiwe) love for Jane Austen and the city of Bath, her ‘Fairyland’ city. Reading it (in 24 hours! I couldn’t put it down!) was like taking a walk with friends through old, familiar places. Jane’s use of Bath (both in the present and during the Regency) and Lyme, coupled with her deft weaving of historical fact and Austen lore, Austen novels (especially Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion) and films made for a book that felt like there was a cameo appearance on every page. It is truly a book written by someone who knows Austen’s life, novels and films inside out, and though any and all might enjoy the wonderful story she has crafted, for those in the “know”, Easter eggs abound, almost like the many inside jokes, shared by the Austen family, that made their way into Jane Austen’s writing. Jane Odiwe’s descriptions of Bath, both past and present, make the city come alive, reviving happy memories for those who have visited the beautiful white limestone city, and painting a vivid tour of city highlights and must visit stops for anyone contemplating a visit. Equally compelling are the settings in Lyme Regis, from Cobb to (more…)
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Discovering Bath with Jane Odiwe

PromenadersShare this:   Now for Bath… Jane Austen to Cassandra September 13, 1815  Searching For Captain Wentworth, my newest book,  was inspired by Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. In it, my heroine Sophie is invited by her aunt to spend some time in the family townhouse.  As she is at a loose end with a broken heart, she thinks it might be a brilliant idea. After all, she’s wanted to visit Bath since she firstt read her favourite novel, Persuasion, and longs to walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps. On arrival, she finds she’s actually living next door to Jane Austen’s own house, but far from being the Regency fantasy she’s imagined, her flat turns out to be a rather neglected place and she only has access to the upper floors. The lower part of the house is occupied by the mysterious Josh Strafford who works at the Holburne Museum over the road in Sydney Gardens. It’s not long, however, before Sophie learns that she’s not alone. A ghostly presence and the discovery of an ancestor’s journal fascinate her. When she sees Josh drop something out on the pavement outside she follows him and picks up the wet object which unfurls in her hand. It looks like Captain Wentworth’s glove. Running after him into the gardens she loses sight of him and when she steps through a cast-iron gate down to the canal that’s where her timeslip adventure begins. I had such fun with this book because I love Bath and am (more…)
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Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

bookiconShare this: One regret I have in my busy life is the lack of leisure time I have for reading. Right now there are four stacks of books on the floor of my office, all waiting to be read. So many books! So little time. Given my schedule, I am glad I set aside the required hours to read Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Jane Austen-inspired stories by published Jane Austen sequel authors and edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. I rarely read anthologies front to back, but flit here and there, landing instead on a story with an intriguing title or by a favorite author. In this instance I began with Stephanie Barron’s tale of Jane And the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery. I am so glad I did, for it prompted me to linger longer over dinner and read another short story. Beth Pattillo’s  When Only a Darcy Will Do was a delight, as was Margaret C. Sullivan’s Heard of You, which I read just before going to bed. The list of authors in this anthology is impressive: Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Brenna Aubrey • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan (more…)
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The Rice Portrait

riceportraitShare this: In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. -Pride and Prejudice For years there has been (some say, unnecessary) controversy over a charming portrait of an unnamed girl in white- clearly she is a member of the Austen family…but is she THE Austen we all so want her to be? With few known likenesses of Jane Austen to compare this too, it seems reasonable to accept the word of family members who knew Jane Austen—yet there are those—costume historians, authors, and even the head of the National Portrait Gallery (though his predecessors believed it to be authentic) who refuse to accept the “Rice Portrait” as it is called, as a genuine article. The current owners of the portrait, the Rice Family, descendants of Jane’s brother Francis, firmly believe the portrait to be genuine and have spent the last several years tracing the history (provenance) of this portrait, discovering, along the way, clues that would surely have sent Sherlock Holmes hard fast on the trail of this mystery. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Rice Portrait, by it’s owner, Anne Rice: This story, and the portrait of Jane Austen started in the summer of 1788 when George Austen took his wife, and his two young daughters, Cassandra, aged 15, and Jane aged not quite 13 years old (more…)