Jane Austen spinoffs, re-tellings and mash-ups are all over the place. I saw three in the book section at COSTCO the other day (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, as it happens). As a former closet Austen addict, I knew that these products existed. I even owned a few (Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field, anyone?). What I wasn’t aware of: QUANTITY. But it became evident as soon as I signed up for the Everthing Austen challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word that were more choices and options for completing the task than I had ever imagined. So that’s the long story about why I’m reviewing a book that wasn’t on my original list: I didn’t know I was spoiled for choice. Now I do. Woe is me (the TBR pile grows!). The short story: it looked cool, and Nicole (of Books and Bards) told me it was the best of the ‘Diaries’ – and definitely worth the read.
So that’s that.
Oh, you wanted a review? Well, if you insist…
Captain Wentworth’s Diary features…Captain Wentworth. Funny, that. He’s the male ‘lead’ in my favorite Jane Austen novel. Persuasion, if you were wondering. Heck, it’s one of my favorite books of all time! As you may have guessed, the Captain’s a navy man. Well, you should really read Persuasion, so that I don’t have to spell it all out. Here, you can even get it for free online! Suffice it to say, in the Austen novel the main characters meet again after eight years apart and the story ensues. What you get in the Diary is that first meeting in earlier years, the dude’s thoughts during actual Austen novel time, and then a tad after the story ended in the original. Here, just read the synopsis (courtesy of Goodreads).
Amanda Grange continues her series of much-loved Jane Austen retellings with Captain Wentworth's Diary. It is 1806, and the Napoleonic wars are ravaging Europe. Frederick Wentworth, a brilliant young man with a flourishing career in the navy, is spending his shore leave in Somerset, where he meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. The two become engaged, but Anne's godmother persuades Anne to change her mind, leaving Wentworth to go back to sea a bitter and disappointed man.
Eight years pass, and peace is declared. Wentworth is no longer a young man with his way to make in the world, but a seasoned captain with a fortune at his disposal. He is ready to marry anyone with a little beauty who pays a few compliments to the navy - or so he says - until he sees Anne. Anne's bloom has faded, yet she has the same sensibilities and superior mind she had eight years earlier, and before he knows it, he is falling in love with her all over again. Can there be a happy outcome for them this time around, or have they lost their chance of love forever?
Things I liked: Grange did an amazing job finding an individual voice for Wentworth. In Persuasion you hear from Anne 99% of the time. Well, in all of Austen’s novels you get the female voice almost exclusively, except for letters. I think part of the reason I love Wentworth (and Darcy) so much is that he writes a letter to Anne, and there you get his voice pure and unadulterated. So Grange had something to work with (beside dialogue and actions) – a profession of love, with a specific tone and word choice. Grange also included more on background characters such as the Harvilles and Benwick and Wentworth’s brother. All of these characters were original to the Austen story, but they’re fleshed out and interesting in Diary.
Things I didn’t like: I liked almost everything about this book, so it’s hard to think of any one thing…but I will say that the story lagged a little bit for me during the middle of the story when Wentworth is re-introduced to Anne and they figure things out. Basic complaint: if you’re going to reiterate the original story without any new anecdotes or unique thoughts, then leave it out (and up to the reader to find the original). Having said that, if I hadn’t read Persuasion so recently, I might not have minded.
In all, I really loved Ms. Grange’s take on Captain Wentworth. I think she did a fantastic job of devising thoughts, actions and dialogue that fit with the original Austen story, and yet were entertaining and fresh. Recommended for all my fellow Austen addicts (but read Persuasion first!).