Friday 11 January 2019

A Discovered Diamond: Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen's Fine Ladies

by Various Authors: Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M Cox,  J.Marie Croft, Amy D'Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, Caitlin Williams. 
Edited by Christina Boyd

"all [the stories] are the same high standard regarding research and stature of writing – in other words, very well written."

 (The Quill Collective Book 3)

 Jane Austen / Regency Romance

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen's novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.”

This is a collection of stories by sixteen different authors, all with one thing in common – their admiration for Miss Jane Austen’s ‘Rational Creatures’ heroines. The stories are, in their words: “humorous, poignant love stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen's great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.” These are behind-the-scenes alternative view stories, a peep-behind-the curtains, or listening from the room next door type tales, vignettes of what might have made Austen’s ladies tick, their motives and motivations.

I did wonder, on receiving the e-file of this book to review, whether we really needed yet another ‘Austen look-alike’ compilation of stories, but then Jane Austen is popular, and being frank, authors have a living to make and if they can write what sells, well, good luck to them. 

As I read, however, I decided that I was wrong: Austen readers, and probably those not familiar with her work, will enjoy these stories for they are not just about the familiar female figures –  Miss Elizabeth and Miss Jane Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, the Dashwoods, Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price, but we also have the (outside of Austen circles) not so well-knowns - Mary Crawford, Anne Elliot, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Louisa Musgrove, Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney and Lady Susan Vernon. Not all Austen fans will necessarily agree with the imaginative interpretations of the characters’ views and perspectives of scenes that are set apart from Austen’s own narrative, but even if they do not, these stories should spark a few ‘I wonder?’ ideas.

I recall when Pride and Prejudice was set to come to our TV scenes, the uproar about viewing Mr Darcy (played by Colin Firth) ‘behind the scenes’ – the shots of him in his bath, fencing with his fencing master, walking homeward with that wet shirt … all scenes which, once aired, were very well received because we, the viewers, appreciated this different perspective.

The stories vary from prequels to sequels, to ‘as they happen’ in Austen’s novels. Some are first person narrative, some third, all are different in style, but all are the same high standard regarding research and stature of writing: thoughtful explorations of the characters and their situations – in other words, very well written.

So I have changed my mind. Rational Creatures is a  ‘must’ to read!

© Ellen Hill

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  1. So glad the stories changed your mind about our #RationalCreatures! We very much enjoyed peeking the cupboards and listening behind the doors to discover the untold stories of these Austen female characters. Thank you for your time in reading and reviewing our 490-page collection of stories.

  2. I am very thrilled we could change your mind. I loved working with such creative authors and did find myself thinking “I wonder “ after their stories.

    1. It just goes to show that a book should never be judged until it has been read! :-)

  3. I'm so glad you liked it! We do have to make a living, but this was a labor of love more than anything else. :-)

    1. *laugh* if the majority of authors relied on making a living out of our work we'd all be in the poor house! We are a rare breed of 'paid by love and a compulsion to write' I think!

  4. What a delight that we were able to surprise you. ;)

    1. I think it a huge compliment that a reader started a book that she wasn't sure of - and ended up loving it. A classic example of not judging a book by its cover!

  5. Wonderful to hear you enjoyed the book! Thank you for reading and reviewing it.

  6. Thank you, Helen, for your kind words about Rational Creatures. I like to think of this anthology as a celebration of Austen "proto-feminist" tendencies; I think she valued rationality, integrity, and judging people based on their merits rather than an accident of birth- at least within the world as she knew it. And I'm glad we were able to change your mind :)


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