I recently received two Austen sequels from Sourcebooks: Old Friends and New Fancies and Pemberley Shades. You all might think writing sequels to Austen novels is a modern fixation but both these are new releases of very old novels.
Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G Brinton was written in 1913 and was my favorite of the two. It's an absolute Austenite fantasy. Think of all the unmarried folks left at the end of the Austen novels and contrive to have them meet. I'm sure many a fan has imagined it. In Old Friends, the Darcys and Co. take a trip to Bath after Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana (Pride and Prejudice) break off their engagement. Fitzwilliam falls head over heels for Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park) but an incident with Lady Catherine De Bourgh puts on the brakes for this romance. Meanwhile, Kitty Bennet sets her hat at William Price (Mansfield Park) who is completely oblivious to her flirtations. Even the help of matchmaker Emma Knightley (Emma) can't help Kitty snag this guy. And poor Georgiana is in the middle of these dramas. While characters from Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park are centre stage, stars from the other works make cameo appearances.
This could have gone very badly but Brinton stays true to the characters of Austen. Kitty is as ditsy as ever, being separated from Lydia has no benefit. I wanted to strangle the girl, which is about right for Kitty. Georgiana is sweetness and kindness without making you want to gag. Mary Crawford doesn't come out unscathed from the exploits of Mansfield Park and has to reap what she's sown. I loved her in Old Friends. She still has the spunk she did (I liked her more than Fanny Price in the original novel) but at times her pride and stubbornness made me want to shake her. Fitzwilliam and William are perfect Austen heroes- always doing the right thing.
The writing is true to Austen. Sybil Brinton doesn't have the bite and wit that Jane did but she is a reasonable facsimile. The story is light with a few tense moments. There are plenty of plot twists and the story keeps on trucking to the expected happy ending. The tension between the romantic couples is perfect and there are even a few love triangles to spice everything up. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise.
Pemberley Shades written by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt in 1949 is the second Austen sequel. It has a different feel than Old Friends and is quite a bit darker. It's almost more Bronte than Austen.
Mr Darcy hires a new rector for Pemberley, a Stephen Acworth, who may or may not be who he says he is. He acts very strangely, especially around Elizabeth and Georgiana. Mr Darcy has his suspicions and starts digging around in this guy's past for an explanation.
Pemberley Shades is rather dramatic, in fact, I kept imagining Snidely Whiplash whenever Mr Acworth was on the scene! There is a scene in an attic with the obligatory flashes of lightning. Very gothic. I also felt claustrophobic reading it. I'm not sure if this was because of the fact that most of the novel happens only on the estate or maybe it was the time that it was written- just after the war. There are a lot of references of social appropriateness, especially in regards to women, that I found oppressive. I felt that it was hard to be Mrs Darcy.
However, I found the dialogue to be more Austen-like than Old Friends. Elizabeth had more of her teasing tone in Pemberley Shades. The addition of the old rector's spinster sisters was a nice touch. It gave Elizabeth someone to spar with. And any scene with Lady Catherine is never a boring one.
My thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for sending me these two. Sorry it took so long but and 370 pgs each- whew!- that was a lot of Austen sequel all at once!
Now for the fun part!!
Sourcebooks will give away a copy of Pemberly Shades and Old Friends and New Fancies to two of my readers. That's one book to 2 winners.
I'll randomly pick 2 winners from the comments below and send them to Danielle. Just answer this question:
What Austen character would you like to have their own sequel?
Good luck! And I'll end the contest on Monday the 27th (midnight Atlantic time) and post the winners on Tuesday.