Fall is upon us and I urge you to fall for this collection of Austenesque works (and not off the cobb like Louisa).
‘Rational Creatures‘ is pretty much a powerhouse of editors, writers and big names in the Austenesque world. Edited by Christina Boyd (who we all know from being active all over the Austen community and ‘The Darcy Monologues’) with a foreword by Dr. Devoney Looser (author of ‘The Making of Jane Austen’ and all-around badass Janeite) you’re already set up for good things to come. And the author list is just incredible! You get stories from Joana Starnes, 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, Brooke West and Caitlin Williams
What are the stories about? Well, you can hear some of it in our Drunk Austen podcast with guest, Christina Boyd, or you can read on.
Each author took on a different female character from Austen’ oeuvre, and what they decided to do with those characters was incredible. From prequels, giving you incredible background on the women before you meet them, to jumping forward in time, giving you conclusions to unfinished storylines, to stories happening concurrent to Austen’s novels, you get a spectacular variety.
Now, I’m kind of a stickler for stories that feel too forced because they take me out of the story. If it doesn’t feel Austen-y, I won’t believe it and I won’t be able to enjoy it. These stories fit. They work. Boyd herself says she went back to reread the books at times to make sure the stories in this collection matched up. There was clear care taken to make this a good experience for readers and it shows.
I will spoil one aspect for you, dear reader. In the foreword it’s set up that Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ will be mentioned, and that should let you know what kind of perspective many of these works will be channeling and embracing. We’re not entering a work that denies feminism, we’re walking straight into a world where women are empowered, or are at least aware of their lack of rights, head held high. I know some Janeites scoff at feminism in Austen, which is why I’m letting you know now what to expect in that realm.
Back to the collection.
I won’t spoil the stories themselves, but I will say there are so many I love and a few that have made certain characters more vivid and endearing in my heart.
- Charlotte Lucas/Collins gets a voice here, and we can see that she wasn’t just accepting what came along, she was smart enough to run with Lizzy and that sharpness shines through in her story.
- Emma is a character close to my heart and we are taken back to her story, 10 years after her novel, where she’s settled in to her life as Knightley’s wife, but not everything is perfection. I loved that story, and I’m a harsh critic of Emma-based stories. It gives you an adult Emma, still dealing (like all adults) with the never-ending lessons that come with life. There’s also a comfortable coziness we get that I think fits nicely with what Austen sets up for Emma’s life with Knightley.
- Harriet Smith and Hetty Bates also get spectacularly clever write-ups, with perfectly placed nods to the novels.
- Louisa we follow after her fall, through her recovery process. I once had a concussion and as I was reading the story it felt very real, very accurate and very fulfilling.
- Elinor and Edward get a lovely bit of bonding that I personally need to believe they actually are attracted to each other by the time we get to ‘Sense and Sensibility.’
These are just a handful of examples from this book. Truly, I loved getting to escape into these stories, which so often felt like the missing pages of Austen’s own novels.
What you should drink with this:
I’d recommend your most delightfully boozy coffee or tea infusion. You want to be awake for this.
Who should read this:
Are you hungry for more Austen, but don’t know where to start in the Jane Austen fanfiction world? This is a PERFECT jumping off point.
If you are already a JAFF fan, this is a wonderful interlude for when you’re tired of scrolling through webpages, or need an ebook to take on a vacation (hint: holiday escape from family).
– Admin B