Cheering reads for Wintry ( or sultry!) days: Jane Austen & Joan Aiken

Unseasonable weather causes a carriage accident at the opening of one of Joan Aiken’s ‘Austen Entertainments’: Lady Catherine’s Necklace

   So begins Joan Aiken’s sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which recently celebrated 200 years as one of the most popular novels of all time.  A dangerous exercise to emulate a favourite author, you might think, but instead of trying to follow the romantic hero and heroine, Aiken’s story gleefully takes up the highly unpopular Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her unfortunate daughter Anne to see what might become of them after Darcy has married Elizabeth and escaped to Pemberley.

Giving Lady Catherine her comeuppance is a brilliant idea, and in fact the more we see of her, the more extraordinary she becomes…  And Anne? Was she disappointed to lose Mr Darcy? You would think so, but Aiken sees her as a girl of character and has a whole other future in mind for her, as we see when we meet  the new arrivals, forced by their carriage accident to put up at Rosings…

This interesting pair of siblings – Ralph and Priscilla Delaval – easily equal Mansfield Park’s Mary and Henry Crawford in their ability to charm and cause chaos in the lives and hearts of everyone they meet; and was their arrival indeed an accident?

As Jane Austen wrote for the  comfort of another heroine, Emma Watson, left in painful  and difficult circumstances at the unhappy conclusion of the unfinished chapters of Austen’s The Watsons,  reading is sometimes the only comfort, and produces one of Austen’s most heartfelt comments on the life of the single, dependent female.

For this heroine ‘the evils’ of her situation “were neither trifling nor likely to lessen; and when thought had been freely indulged in contrasting the past and the present, the employment of mind and dissipation of unpleasant ideas which only reading could produce made her thankfully turn to a book.”

From Jane Austen’s The Watsons


 New hardback and EBook Joan Aiken editions

from Jonathan Cape at Random House

Lady Catherine cover


More to follow in the series, including Mansfield Revisited

Read more about Joan Aiken’s ‘Austen Entertainments’

in the New York Times Book Review

article by Lizzie Skurnick

 celebrating Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary

and on the Joan Aiken website


Of course Joan Aiken couldn’t resist rescuing poor Emma Watson from her difficulties and giving her more  adventures than she would ever have found in that book –

in her own sequel

The Watsons and Emma Watson

You can read the two authors side by side in this edition




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