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Jane and Fringe Theatre and Puppets

Jane Austen News

Jane and Fringe Theatre and Puppets

NORTHANGER-ABBEY-Box-Tale-Soup.-700x455As part of Brighton’s 2016 Fringe Festival, the theatre company Box Tale Soup performed their adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It’s not like your average stage adaptation though. This one has been done with puppets. Which for some people will be a really interesting and fun change, but the show is a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love it or hate it.

Continue reading Jane and Fringe Theatre and Puppets

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Catherine Morland: A Failed Gothic Novel Heroine?

Catherine Morland - Failed Gothic Heroine?

Catherine Morland: A Failed Gothic Novel Heroine? – A guest essay by Lucie Rivet

Jane Austen is famed for creating literary characters who feel real to the reader. Perhaps for this reason, even two hundred years after her death, film adaptations, sequels and fan fictions are still being created based upon her work, and Jane Austen has never before been read by so many people in so many countries around the world.

Austen was from a family of opinionated readers, and had very little patience with some literary trends that she found ridiculous, and with readers who couldn’t tell reality from fiction. One of her most interesting literary characters is Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey, which was the first novel that Jane Austen completed, even though it was only published after her death. Catherine Morland’s story is inspired by these strong beliefs concerning novels, readers, and literature.

At the beginning of the book, Catherine Morland is introduced as an anti-heroine, being really quite plain, and having nothing interesting in her family history, nor in her character. Hence, the famous first sentences of the novel: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.”

As a teenager, Catherine becomes a little bit more “accomplished – but she mainly spends her time reading gothic novels, that were fashionable among young girls of the Gentry, Aristocracy and rising Bourgeoisie at the time.

Catherine is then invited in Bath, where she meets the Tilney family. During a walk, Catherine and her new friends talk about novels. Henry Tilney shows he can enjoy a good gothic novel, or any novel, without ever mistaking it for reality, whereas Catherine shows that she is somewhat confused with this distinction.

Jane Austen will amplify this aspect of Catherine when she is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey, the Tilney family’s home. Her imagination is unleashed, in a place that looks so much like the castles of her gothic novels.

She thinks she is going to find suspicious parchments in the chest of her room. She interprets what people tell her as if they were characters of a gothic novels. She even goes as far as sneaking into Henry’s late mother’s room in the hope of finding something that could confirm that she was killed by Henry’s father. Catherine has indeed grown convinced that Henry’s father is in fact as terrible as the villains of her gothic novels.

Henry surprises her in his mother’s room, and is shocked and disappointed that she has thought his father capable of murder. His shock helps Catherine to understand the difference between novels and reality, as Henry is both quite harsh and also understanding. From this moment, Catherine is no longer a character who is only a confused reader: she is going to become a real-life, well-rounded character who will experience real life tribulations (as both herself and her brother are victims of manipulative people’s schemes) before ending up as a perfect Jane Austen heroine: marrying a man that she loves and who loves her too. So, she has failed to metamorphose into a Gothic novel heroine, but she has succeeded in her own real life. Isn’t that a better way to live?

Northanger Abbey is sometimes considered a parody of Gothic novels, and it is, in some places. However it is, above all, a defence of good novels and good readers, who are able to read with amusement, without expecting their lives to look like one of the stories they read. Northanger Abbey is far from discrediting reading novels (by the way, the only character in the book who does not read is John Thorpe – the real villain of the story). Through Henry and Catherine’s characters, Austen draws a very skillful portrait of what a good reader is, and what a foolish and ridiculous reader is.

So, in this coming-of-age novel, Jane Austen tells the story of a character who starts as a plain child, who then turns into a teenager with admirable qualities. The teenager is a poor reader and lacks common sense and real life experience, but she will then bloom into a real woman and heroine of her own life – empowered and intelligent, able to make wiser choices and to be as free. At least, as free as was possible in the English society of Austen’s time.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 102

Next he should read Northanger Abbey

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Bestsellers and Northanger Abbey! 


Female Authors Dominate the Bestseller List

Female authors were very definitely in the minority when Jane Austen was writing, but certainly not in 2017! The Bookseller‘s analysis of literary fiction book sales from last year found that there was only one male author on the list of top ten bestselling authors in the UK in 2017.

Topping the list last year was Margaret Atwood, who saw TV adaptations of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace released last year. Sales of her books last year reached almost £2.8m.

Next on the list was Sarah Perry, the author of the incredible hit The Essex Serpent, with sales of approximately £1.6m. Third was the lately departed Helen Dunmore, whose novel The Birdcage Walk and her poetry collection Inside The Wave were released in 2017.

Also making the list were Italian author Elena Ferrante, and the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Naomi Alderman, whose apocalyptic novel The Power comes highly recommended by us at the Jane Austen News (though it’s nothing like an Austen novel, we have to warn you).

Award-winning author Haruki Murakami, who released his short story collection Men Without Women last year, was the only man to make the top ten. The rest of the top ten were Ali Smith, Zadie Smith (no relation), Maggie O’Farrell and Arundhati Roy.

Sadly, women writers still take up less than half of the slots in the Bookseller’s overall UK top 50 bestselling author of 2017, but nevertheless we can’t help but feel that Jane would be delighted to know just how far the recognition of female authors’ talent has come. Also, how pleased Mary Wollstonecraft might be that there has been such a vindication on the “writes” of woman (sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves).

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 102

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Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

Welcome to the first of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.


Perhaps it’s just that kind of day. Or year. Bottom line: you’re feeling none too great. Friends, there is a cure to what ails you, and
her name is Austen. Her magic comes in many forms, and this series of posts will illuminate, in no particular order, what you can do, with almost no effort, to feel light and bright and fabulous!


Today we’re feeling the fairy dust from Northanger Abbey. 

Northanger Abbey Graphic NovelWhat? You’ve heard it’s frivolous? Not as polished as Austen’s later works? Balderdash. But wait—didn’t its original publisher accept it and then couldn’t be bothered to publish it? Just means he was a fool. And anyhow, you’re too wise to waste time caring about what other people think. Because if you did care, you wouldn’t be dressing in Regency-era costumes (or wondering what it would be like to do it). You wouldn’t be going to (or imagining) fun things like the Jane Austen Festival in Bath or your local ECD get-togethers (not OCD, ECD, and that stands for English Country Dance). And you definitely wouldn’t be saving up for (or wondering what it would be like to go to) ComicCon. I could do a whole series of posts on the cross-pollination between Austen fans and sci-fi fans, but I digress…

Anyhow, here’s the Northanger Abbey Happiness Program:

Continue reading Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

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Jane Austen News – Issue 49

Jane Austen News is Bath!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   


 Jane Austen’s England – Limited Edition   

Jane Austen Festival 2016American travel company Peregrine Adventures have an excellent Jane Austen literary tour planned for 2017. The limited edition tour is timed to commemorate the 200th year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and will visit destinations in Southern England significant to Jane Austen’s life (including Bath and the Jane Austen Centre). It will also include towns and cities that inspired her work (such as Lyme Regis), and visit film locations where some of the films based on her novels have been shot. Highlights include a regency dance class with an expert in historical dance, and a talk about regency fashion with a period costume expert. The tour will be led by a Peregrine leader, but there will be various local expert guides at different locations within the tour, some of whom are members of the Jane Austen Society.

Having looked at the full programme we’re rather impressed. So if you’re looking for a thorough tour of Jane Austen’s England, but don’t fancy trying to plan your own, this might be of interest as your summer holiday next year? The eight day tour begins on June the 12th, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the Peregrine tour group to the centre on the 16th.

Trend Setter – Mr Darcy and his Christmas Jumper   

Colin Firth was certainly responsible for the wet-shirt obsession which gripped much of the nation following his performance in 636167664517412268-d-bridget-jones-dvd-29-13635165the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, in which (as we needed to remind you), Firth, while playing Mr Darcy, jumps into a lake on Pemberley estate and emerges as a water-drenched heart throb. However, it seems that Mr Firth, while playing another incarnation of Mr Darcy (stuffy lawyer Mark Darcy in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary) may also be the source of the novelty Christmas jumper trend.

The original sweater went through many designs because it had to be just right. The character of Mr. Darcy is a constipated English prig when we first meet him so we needed something totally ridiculous to pierce that pomposity. And for some reason neither Santas nor X-mas trees nor snowmen worked as well as that red-nosed moose or reindeer we chose. It also had to look home-knit, something his mother knitted for him.

Sharon Maguire, director of all three films in the Bridget Jones franchise.

Mr Darcy – novelty Christmas jumper trend-setter. It’s certainly not a connection we at the Jane Austen News would have automatically made! It’s an interesting thought though.

Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen at Cambridge Arts Theatre

lucyworsleyFor those of you who, like us at the Jane Austen News, have been watching and enjoying the wonderful BBC Television series on Henry VIII’s six wives presented by historian Lucy Worsley, this upcoming event may be of interest. Lucy will be at Cambridge Arts Theatre presenting At Home with Jane Austen on Sunday May 7th 2017, dispelling the myth that she was a cynical, lonely spinster.

During the evening, Lucy will consider what home meant to Jane and tells her story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places that mattered to her; offering audience members a snapshot of “a witty and passionate woman of her time, who refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.” This event is also a prelude to Lucy’s forthcoming new book, At Home with Jane Austen.

It’s an event that’s a little way in advance it’s true, but it is one that we’re sure will sell out – which is why we’re mentioning it now. (Tickets for anyone wishing to go are available from the Cambridge Arts Theatre website.)

Love & Friendship Tops the Polls Again   

Love & Friendship has triumphed in another top-films-of-the-year

In the Sunday World newspaper’s rundown of the best films of 2016 Love & Friendship has come in at number 10, and beat the likes of X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond, Ghostbusters, and other highly anticipated films. The paper published a few of the reasons why Love & Friendship had had to have a place in the top films:

Austen screen adaptations are generally mined for their sweeping romance, but Stillman parks the heaving bosoms for pure comedy, and the resulting film is a joy.

We are reminded what a witty, socially observational writer Austen was, and how she and Stillman make great collaborators two centuries apart.

Droll, funny and refreshingly unsentimental, Love & Friendship is one of the sharpest and wittiest takes on Austen yet.

Northanger Abbey in Eastbourne  

image-7As part of the celebrations in 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, an ambitious stage adaptation of Northanger Abbey will be presented from Monday February 20th to Wednesday February 22nd at Devonshire Park Theatre.

The adaptation, by acclaimed Austen specialist Tim Luscombe, has been described as “a delight – witty, fast moving and stylish – and a perfect way to celebrate a great writer.” Previously Tim Luscombe’s version of Mansfield Park was produced and toured in 2012 and 2013. This adaptation of Northanger Abbey will be directed by Artistic Director Karen Simpson with an eight-strong cast and was first produced by York Theatre Royal in 2004, Salisbury Playhouse in 2007 (followed by a tour), and in 2010 at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, and in 2013 in Chicago at the Remy Bumppo Theatre.

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 32

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?


Amazing Librarians Up For Award       
Girl reading at the libraryLibraries are wonderful, magical places, and one of the things that helps the to be such is their dedicated librarians. So, in order to honour the work of these fantastic people who work in school libraries and help children to become lovers of books from an early age, the School Librarian of the Year Award was set up. We have to say, this year’s honour list, from which an overall winner will be announced in a ceremony at Covent Gardens in London on October 3rd, has some truly amazing examples of librarians who go above and beyond in their jobs.

Amy McKay, librarian at Corby Business Academy in Northamptonshire, has hosted barbecues, sleepovers, a comic-con event, a zombie-apocalypse and staff-pupil battles of the books to introduce pupils to different genres and authors.

Lauren Thow of Portobello High School in Edinburgh has research lessons for pupils, in which she occasionally dresses as Sir Alan Sugar and has established a Portobello High literature festival.

Sophie Chalmers library at Southbrook School in Devon is housed inside a double-decker bus (how wonderful is that?) and she has established a reading-buddy scheme, connecting her own special school with the local mainstream secondary.

Alison Tarrant helped to establish her library at Cambourne Village College in Cambridgeshire, and this involved the donning of  hard hats and high-visibility jackets as the build began.

But the one that really caught our eye was Rachel Knight, who is a librarian at the independent Sherborne Girls’ School in Dorset. She has dressed up in a white coat and dug out her stethoscope to act as the school’s “book doctor”, but she’s also hosted a dinner party with Mr Darcy for her pupils! Clearly a librarian after our own hearts!

A Regency Request 

90c7c3e9abee3428a09cce7ee729f3a5The guides at the Jane Austen Centre have an unusual request for actor Dominic Cooper, who played Willoughby in the 2008 BBC production of Sense and Sensibility.

After noticing that Mr Cooper was set to appear in The Libertine at Bath Theatre Royal while the annual Jane Austen Festival would be on two of the guides penned a letter with quill and ink, and using Jane’s tone of voice and references to her work, asking whether he might visit the Jane Austen Centre for complimentary afternoon tea, donate a signature for the centre’s signature wall, and perhaps read a passage of Sense and Sensibility during the festival.

For the past 16 years, the Jane Austen Centre has welcomed many a famous face from the Austen film adaptations through their doors, including Rosamund Pyke, Anne Hathaway, and Matthew MacFadyen, and as the film adaptations play such a huge part in the Austenite fan base, we always endeavour to get our hands hands on a signed photograph to add to our wall of fame if we can.

Lauren Thompson, Duty Manager

The guides at the centre and all of us at the Jane Austen News are keeping their fingers crossed that he accepts.

Was Austen More Financially Savvy Than Modern Women?   

53_mrs_bennet_Pride_and_PrejudiceJane Caro, writing for the online magazine Women’s Agenda, has proposed the idea that women today are still somewhat stuck in the era of Austen when it comes to money matters and she has come to the defence of Mrs Bennet’s obsession with marriage. In her opinion Mrs Bennet should be applauded not derided. Shame on Mr Bennet who sat back and trusted that it would all somehow work out for his daughters, and well done Mrs Bennet for knowing that marrying her daughters off was the best thing she could do to protect their future and actively pursuing it.

However, the main aim of Caro’s article is to propose that, while in Jane’s time marrying a man was a good financial plan, too many women today are still thinking that looking after the finances is a man’s responsibility.”Research from the Financial Planning Association indicates that only 20% of Australian women aged between 18 and 55 have sought professional financial advice, which means a terrifying 80% of us have not.”

It’s an interesting point. Although a lot of our attitudes about life have changed (for one thing our life’s entire aim is no longer just to get married) what ideas from the 1700s and 1800s do we still have that desperately need an update? Is the idea that finances are mainly a man’s domain still one of them?

Austen Set In Pakistan = Austenistan    


14046127_1153777414682485_3260289516705750342_nLaaleen Khan, a British Pakistani media professional who is also the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP), has an exciting new project in progress which she hopes will be published next year. That project is Austenistan – a new Jane Austen-inspired anthology set among Pakistani society.

Laaleen has asked writers to contribute short stories to this new anthology which she hopes will be “unabashedly mainstream commercial fiction for global readership and relatable for women everywhere.” She hopes that the combination of Austen and Pakistani culture will  “reveal an authenticity about Pakistani society that is seldom explored internationally to generate a new appreciation about metropolitan lifestyles here.”

Austenistan is an engrossing anthology of more than 15 short stories. I’m the editor and one of its contributors. Earlier this year, I invited an array of brilliant women, who are also members of JASP, to contribute stories inspired by Jane Austen’s characters or storylines, and set in Pakistani society. It’s already created a flutter among international publishing circles, which is so encouraging.

The Cate Morland Chronicles  

A few years ago The Lizzie Bennet Diaries were published on YouTube. For those readers who have not come across the Lizzie Bennet Diaries before, they tell a modernised version of the story of Pride and Prejudice through a series of vlogs made by Lizzie and Charlotte. They were the work of “Pemberley Digital”  who also filmed other classic books in the same way, including Emma Approved, Frankenstein MD, Welcome to Sanditon, and The March Family Letters.

Now the latest Austen book to get its own online series is Northanger Abbey. Though not published through Pemberley Digital, but rather created by Apple Juice Productions, The Cate Morland Chronicles follows a similar format to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Through a number of vlogs we meet and learn about Cate Morland and see the story of Northanger Abbey play out. But while in Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland has a deep love for Gothic novels, in the vlogs this love becomes a general love for genre fiction in all its shapes and sizes – anime, Star Trek etc.

The full series being uploaded to YouTube over the next few months, with episodes 1-10 already live.

Voting On Bromley’s Mr Darcy Almost Closed 

A little while ago the Jane Austen News came across a story which announced that Bromley was looking for its own Mr Darcy. The public were asked to find and nominate Bromley’s own Mr Darcy and give him the rewards he deserves which included a pair of tickets to Pride and Prejudice at the Churchill Theatre and an overnight stay for two at Bromley Court Hotel. Well the nominations are in and it was lovely to read about all of the wonderful things the nominees had done.

One finalist was nominated by his partner because he had supported her so fully after she had recently had major spinal surgery, and one nominee was a son nominated by his mother because he “holds all the old family values”.

The finalists will be announced on August 31st following an online public vote. (If you wish to vote the link is here.)

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Northanger Abbey: The Austen Project, by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

northanger-abbey-austen-project-val-mcdermid-2014-x-200Northanger Abbey: The Austen Project, by Val McDermid

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

In the second installment of The Austen Project, bestselling Scottish crime writer Val McDermid takes a stab at a contemporary reimagining of Jane Austen’s most under-appreciated novel, Northanger Abbey. Written in the late 1790’s when Austen was a fledgling writer, this Gothic parody about young heroine Catherine Morland’s first experiences in Bath society and her romance with the dishy hero Henry Tilney is one of my favorite Austen novels. Fresh and funny, the writing style is not as accomplished as her later works but no one can dismiss the quality of Austen’s witty dialogue nor her gentle joke at the melodramatic Gothic fiction so popular in her day. I was encouraged by the choice of McDermid as author and intrigued to see how she would transport the story into the 21st century.

Our modern heroine, sixteen-year-old Cat Morland, is a vicar’s daughter living a rather disappointing life in the Piddle Valley of Dorset. Her mother and father seldom argued and never fought, and her siblings were so average she despaired of ever discovering any dark family secrets to add excitement to her life. Homeschooled, she can’t comprehend history or French or algebra, but delights in reading to fuel her vivid imagination, favoring ghost stories, zombie and vampire tales. After years of exploring the narrow confines of her home turf she craves adventure abroad. Rich neighbors Susie and Andrew Allen come to her rescue by inviting her to travel with them and attend the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland where Cat “is in her element, seeing potential for terror and adventure around every twist and turn of the narrow streets.”

Introduced to theater, art and books, and thanks to fashionista Mrs. Allen, Cat soon acquires a new wardrobe and dancing lessons where she partners with a charming and witty young attorney, Henry Tilney. After researching Henry on Facebook and Google she discovers that his father is the much-decorated general who made his name in the Falkland’s war before she was born. Even more interesting to Cat’s Gothic infused imagination, he owns Northanger Abbey, a medieval Borders abbey in Scotland. Cat also meets Mrs. Allen’s long-lost school friend Martha Thorpe and her three daughters, one of which is just Cat’s age. Bella, who recognizes the Morland last name, knows Cat’s elder brother Jamie who is attending Oxford with her brother Johnny. Before long they were “gossiping about the things that entertain young women of a certain age and type,” and becoming bff’s.

Blowhard Johnny Thorpe arrives in his racy red sports car with friend James Morland in tow. He attempts to court Cat but all she can think of is Henry and his sister Ellie. When Cat attends a céilidh, she anticipates dancing the Highland fling and hopes to encounter Henry Tilney again, who will surely save her from the unwanted attentions of crude Johnny Thorpe. As she and Bella scout the room they notice a beautiful, pale young woman dressed all in white:

“Who on earth was that?” Bella asked, “She acts like she’s in Pride and Prejudice.”
“That’s Henry Tilney’s sister Ellie.” Cat stared after the disappearing figure. There was something about Ellie, something out of time and out of style, like there would be if you were a two-hundred-year old vampire, she thought with a mixture of dread and delight.”

The story continues, mirroring the text of Northanger Abbey page for page, and scene for scene. Cat travels to Northanger Abbey as guest of the Tilney’s and the story turns Gothic and mysterious – just as Austen had devised.

McDermid made clever, creative and sensible choices in modernizing Northanger Abbey by moving the action from England to Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival easily replaces eighteenth century Georgian Bath allowing for a social hub similar in context: theater, shopping and country dancing. Later, we are treated to a really creepy medieval setting for a Scottish castle/Northanger Abbey. Cat is appropriately addicted to modern Gothic novels rivaling the famous Northanger Canon: Herbridean Harpies, Ghasts of Ghia and even Pride a Prejudice and Zombies! McDermid builds the vampire theme slowly, allowing Henry and Ellie to be pale in complexion, anachronistic in demeanor and just mysterious enough to trigger Cat’s imagination. Her characterizations are spot on: Henry is droll and swoon-worthy as ever, Cat a bit air-headed and impressionable, Bella a slick piece of work, and General Tilney deceptive and tyrannical.

The plot plays out as one would expect, and if you had not read Northanger Abbey before you would not notice that the author has really created a complete translation, scene for scene, and sometimes word for word—a No Fear Shakespeare version of Northanger Abbey. While I admired McDermid’s creative choices to bring the story into the modern world (cell phones, Facebook, language and culture), I was immediately puzzled by her choice of narrative style. This novel is really a retelling instead of the reimagining that it was advertised as. The downside of a translation is in its creative limitations, resulting in McDermid’s sentences being affected and unnatural. I just wanted her to break out of the stranglehold she had placed on herself and use the plot and characterization as a spring board, and not a noose. Limiting herself in this manner may have been her way of honoring Austen, but I think she has done a great disservice to her own writing. Having not read any of her acclaimed crime novels I have no idea of her real talent. I believe that Austen herself, who honed her craft so precisely, would be baffled at one author lessening their gifts at the expense of another.

Like the reaction to Joanna Trollope’s contemporary reimaging of Sense and Sensibility published last year, whenever you fiddle with the classics there are bound to be those who are open to the concept and those completely closed off. I read this novel in anticipation of enjoying it. In hindsight, I do not think that it was written for an Austen fan familiar with the original, but for the uninitiated who may view it in a completely different light.

RRP: £18.99
Grove Press (2014)
Hardcover (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0802123015

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

This review of Val McDermind’s Northanger Abbey originally appeared on and is used here with permission.

Cover image courtesy of Grove Press © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress,

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Gothic Horrors: The Regency Vampyre


The “modern” vampire genre (or Vampyre, if you will) stems from James Polidori’s 1819 novel, The Vampyre, however the Gothic craze of the entire Regency era led to this printing, and in fact, real events in Europe led to the fascination of all things mysterious and horrible, as characterized in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. It should come as no suprise, then, that Northanger Abbey has finally been rewritten as an actual Vampire inspired novel (see Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey, 2014). Writers have been trying to mash the two genres for years now, beginning with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (supposedly a nod to Pride and Prejudice) and Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, to Jane Bites Back, and other similar tales.

According to legend, vampires are mythical beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures (not unlike General Tilney, one might suppose…) In folkloric tales, undead vampires often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 1800s. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularised until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe,although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to what can only be called mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

Frotspiece to Polidori's "The Vampyre".
Frontispiece to Polidori’s “The Vampyre”.

The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century. However, it is Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula which is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend. The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, and television shows. The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.

Continue reading Gothic Horrors: The Regency Vampyre

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