on August 1, 2007
I gave this book 4 stars, but in my mind, it is the perfect example of 3 and 1/2 stars. The book is a quick read, and the story is light and funny. At times, however, the characters act too much like cariactures of themselves, the situations are too trite, the comments a bit too cliche. Nevertheless, I don't think the reader is supposed to take this book for more than what it is--an enjoyable, fun book with some stabs at social conventions which would bring a small grin to a contemporary Jane Austen.
on January 25, 2015
Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. So when I read the description of this book I was excited to read a modern day version of it. I loved it up to the point of Jane and Guy's tryst. And that's where it dropped from 4 to one star. I'm not a prude, but really, that was WAY more info than I needed. We didn't need to hear the disgusting details. I skipped those pages because I don't need that kind of graphic detail, but it made Jane drop in my estimation. A strong woman, like Jane had become, would NEVER have gotten into the situation in the first place. A good writer, in my opinion sets up the scene and if it is well done, the reader can know, without the play by play, of how it turned out. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, when Lydia runs off with Wickham, the reader knows what went on and Austen didn't have to include the details. We knew what they were up to by the reaction of the family and friends as to the seriousness of Lydia's discretion. Again, I know morals are different today than in Austen's day but we still don't need so much garbage detail to know what went on. The readers have a brain and I think authors don't think we do. Anyway, although I felt the setting in modern day was very well done, I would be embarrassed if anyone read this book on my recommendation.
At first, The Family Fortune seems a little stifled...a Brahmin family who's never worked, a 38-year-old protagonist who lives with her father, and an overwhelming atmosphere of ennui. By Chapter 3, though, conflict has set in: due to sloppy money management, the family fortune is dwindled, and Jane Fortune and her family are forced to live elsewhere, giving up their old-money Beacon Hill haunt for rent.
It took me a little while to warm to this novel...it seemed impossibly stuffy at first...and then it really sunk its teeth in. Jane Fortune is an endearing and considerate heroine, once you get to know her a bit; and there's a page-turning romance...will she or won't she get together with the guy she jilted years before? He's now a famous author and modelizer, young women are throwing themselves at him, and Jane is not getting any younger or trendier.
This book has a whiff of the Old World about it, a kind of European charm, that seems aloof at first but rapidly becomes warm and cozy. It's not quite like Austen...Austen's heroines were more often poor than rich...but it's an illuminating look at a way of life that many people have never experienced, and the romance is satisfying.
on October 23, 2007
Having spent over 7 years in the Boston area, this book looked like a fun read, and I really enjoyed her inclusion of so many beautiful Boston destinations. Stand alone the book was great if you like the subtle romantic style of Jane Austin, but yet are not intent on comparing it to Persuasion the whole way through.
on December 26, 2012
This is a contemporary version of my favorite novel, Jane Austen's Persuasion, and although that would seem to raise the stakes for it quite high, I nonetheless found it a charming read. (Full disclosure: the author, Laurie Horowitz, was a friend in college, although I discovered a few years ago -- also full disclosure - that she doesn't remember me in the slightest!) She has done a fine job of updating the particulars to a plausible contemporary American setting, translating Anne Eliot's titled English family into an old Boston family, and giving the heroine (here called Jane Fortune) a love interest who is a rich and moderately famous author instead of a rich and moderately famous sea captain. Just about every character and plot development in the original has its update here, some quite ingenious. To my mind she has improved the heroine for today by giving her a serious profession of her own - managing a literary foundation, which has allowed what is clearly the author's own passion for literature and experience as an agent to inform the book quite nicely. She's also given her heroine a snarky first-person point of view that may make Jane more entertaining in some ways but also makes this book feel a bit more like chick lit that will fade away as its topical references age. My favorite parts of the book are a couple of truly taut conversations between the hero and heroine that Jane Austen never wrote herself, powerful enough that I'd be happy to read another love story from this writer. The least successful aspect is her take on young Mr. Eliot, the too-aptly named Guy Callow, and the one explicit scene in the book, which sticks out like a giant, protruding ... well, never mind. On the whole, however, I would recommend this book to Jane-ites and anyone looking for a pleasant comic romance.
on August 2, 2011
Oh Jane Fortune! How do I love thee!!
Just so you know I did go into this retelling of Persuasion, my all time favorite Jane Austen novel, with a hefty does of wariness. I mean, nothing could come close to imitating the original on this one, right?
Truth be told, Laurie Horowitz did a fabulous job of updating my beloved Persuasion for the modern world in The Family Fortune. The Fortunes are decidedly Boston Old Money with connections and oodles of spare time to devote to their favorite pastime: themselves. Of course when financial disaster strikes, the family must retrench* and a whole new world is opened up for Jane. Morphing Anne Elliot into Jane Fortune, an almost-forty year old trustafarian who spends her days editing the Euphemia Review, was pure genius in my book. And once again my heart broke over and over for Jane as I watched the world pass her by. Truly I don't know how such a passive character could ever win me over, but she does. Perhaps it's her eventual determination to take control of her life little by little in order to carve out her own bit of happiness away from her rotten family.
My only complaint with The Family Fortune happens to be a somewhat large sticking point: Max Wellman (the reinvention of Cpt. Wentworth). Throughout most of the book, I ached with Jane as she silently pined for her lost love and then as she was 'reunited' with him only to watch him date other women. To say I was building up their eventual reunion would be a complete understatement -- I was expecting true fireworks people. Sadly, there was no grand moment of love rekindled. Not even an impassioned letter from Max! **cue extreme sobbing** Just simple, no nonsense decisions. Which does go along with Jane's character but I was just hoping for something a teeny bit more swoon-worthy. But honestly? I still love this book for Jane's transformation alone, even if her happily ever after wasn't as blissful as Anne Elliot's. I'm thinking any true lover of Persuasion will think so too.
*I always thought the 'reduced circumstances' bit in Persuasion was hilarious because yes, the Elliots have to retrench, but they still are gentry and have means -- albeit reduced. I mean, they are spending the winter in BATH (a resort town) for goodness sakes! Anyways, Horowitz does a nice job of calling Ms. Austen on this in The Family Fortune.
"From what I hear, he is really crazy about you, Jane."
"That's ridiculous. Does he know about our 'reduced circumstances'?" I asked.
"Honey, the Fortunes in reduced circumstances live better than ninety-nine percent of the population -- but that's not it. He has money. He's not interested in your money."
HA! My thoughts exactly.
You'll often find Jane Fortune - a member of one of Boston's most prestigious long-standing moneyed families at home on a Saturday night, curled up with a book. Although her vain father Teddy and pretentious sister Miranda are happiest attending parties and being seen among society's elite, Jane is perfectly content to stay out of the limelight. She's of the literary variety and works hard to run the family's foundation and publish the Euphemia Review, which has launched the career of several authors.
After reading only a few entries of this year's granting round, Jane's found "the one", the winner who seems more promising than most. But writer Jack Reilly is nowhere to be found. While this apparently homeless writer is a surprise, Jane is unsurprised when the family lawyer delivers the news that their fortune is dwindling, forcing the Fortunes to vacate and rent out their historic home. Compounding Jane's situation further is the news that Max Wellman, the first recipient of the foundation and Jane's first love is back in Boston. Now a successful bestselling novelist and ladies man, Jane is sure she will wilt in Max's presence. But perhaps he's all she needed to see her self-worth as a single, thirty-something woman and regain her luster for life.
Reading this Austen retelling of Persuasion was an experiment for me. I've read books inspired by Austen but not anything approaching a sequel, prequel, or retelling. Call me a coward but each of Austen's novels are on a pedestal of which I thought nothing, continuation or retelling, could measure up. Jane Eyre also belongs on that shelf and my recent read of Jane, April Linder's brilliant retelling gave me hope that there are some out there which stand up to their origins as both a successful retelling and an entirely new story.
Fortunately (no pun intended) The Family Fortune is successful on some fronts. It is a commentary on manners and there is wit in many of the dialogues. For the most part the secondary characters translate well. Teddy and Miranda are just as superficial and conceited as you could hope for. Jane's hypochondriac sister Winnie and her husband Charles are spot on. I loved their scenes with Jane which reminded me, just for a moment, of reading Persuasion for the first time. I also liked Jane, the perfect modern interpretation of quiet, helpful, and practical Anne. Her literary bent was fitting and I loved viewing her as both a reader and a promoter of struggling writers. I missed the degree of introspection and description present in Persuasion but still connected with her. Priscilla (Lady Russell) and Guy (Mr. Elliot) were the least generously characterized and are a lot more worldly in the modern sense but I still didn't mind their very amoral standards.
Unfortunately when it came to Max (Captain Wentworth) I didn't feel that way. The first half I read with anticipation for his and Jane's upcoming encounters and the last half with slight let-down when I read the actual exchanges themselves. Maybe Max was underdeveloped but either way I never really understood Jane's undying love for him. It may have had something to do with his womanizing reputation, but I know it also had something to do with the lack of subtlety in their short, spaced interactions. Instead of having any grand, epic moment of declaration or realization their feelings for one another were expressed little by little - more gradually and earlier than I expected. As a result their romance felt anti-climatic and the book overall felt like it was missing some spark. Perhaps it's because Persuasion is not only my favorite Austen novel, but if hard-pressed the answer to the all-time favorite book question as well so I'm a hard fan to please. Although there was an urgency to see how it all ended up compared to the original I ultimately wished that I had just read Persuasion instead. The Family Fortune may have not worked for me but I'd still recommend it to fans of Austen retellings and fans of the original as I appear to be one of the few truly disappointed readers out there.
"The Family Fortune" by Laurie Horowitz is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" but it's a delightful read whether you are an Austen fan or not, or familiar with "Persuasion" or not.
Jane Fortune is a Boston woman in crisis. She's pushing 40 (38, in fact), she's unmarried with little prospects, her family fortune appears to be in serious jeopardy and her first love, author Max Wellman, is back.
Jane edits a literary journal, which she founded, and while she has great satisfaction from finding the next literary genius, she years for true love. The first great literary genius she found, Max Wellman, went on to become a successful novelist. She still pines for Max, who she left 15 years earlier on the advice of her mother's oldest friend, Priscilla.
To further complicate matters, the family finances are in peril - - a fact which Jane's father Teddy can't understand and Jane's older, and unmarried, sister Miranda refuses to understand. Jane's younger sister Winnie is too busy suffering from her own ailments to concern herself with her family's troubles, and that includes her husband and her own sons.
"The Family Fortune" is told from Jane's point of view and what makes the book such an enjoyable read, besides the obvious Austen connection, is Jane's likability. You root for her and you want her to succeed, feeling that she deserves a better fate than being treated as little more than a servant by her own sisters and father. Jane isn't stupid, she's merely sold herself short for far too long.
My only complaint, if you can call it that, with this book is that I don't believe the character of Max was developed enough. I wish we could have seen more about why Jane fell so madly in love with him.
Regardless, "The Family Fortune" was well worth the time spent to read it - - less than six days for me (not bad, revolving around my full time work schedule and family). I would definitely recommend it to any Austen or romance fan.
My grade: B
on June 1, 2006
This novel is like a bowl of candy. I couldn't stop reading it! It is a fast, fun, delicious read. The Family Fortune is a Jane Austen tale set in a modern day Boston Brahmin family. The characters (the evil ones) are so nasty and self-involved they're entertaining and the protagonist is genuine- the kind of gal you root for and want to hang out with. I know the author professionally, and can't wait to read what she writes next.
I happen to love Jane Austen's novels but even if you don't, give this book a try. It focuses on a 38 year old woman aptly named Jane Fortune, a female who has become rather set in her ways, losing hope of ever finding love, let alone true happiness. Her life is rather lackluster. How and why will she change? Or will she? That is the main issue but the various subplots are what make this book a special treat. Horowitz throws in little gems of insight, much as Austen did. This book will make you think about society's conventions - or perhaps make you wonder about the loss of them.
The author of this book, Laurie Horowitz, includes a special section where she explains how she came to write the book and why she deviated from the conventions of Austen novels. Basically, she has created a thoughtful, compelling book which takes into account the way society has changed since Austen's time - women actually work outside the home, they may be more independent, etc.
What I found intriguing was how Horowitz managed to have a strong, independent female (Jane Fortune) at the heart of this book while still maintaining the mannered tone of an Austen novel, quite a feat to pull off. She does this by setting her tale in Boston, a city which still has its share of people who care about social class. She shows the subtle distinctions between those with old money and those who are newly wealthy, but does so with taste and a deft touch. Jane Fortune is one of those who come from old-money aristocracy but who is feeling more and more out of date, feeling that managing a trust fund and the family foundation may not be her life's goal. Her "charmed life" is beginning to feel more and more like a cage and not the Eden it used to be. She also misses the love of her life (who, thank goodness, is about to appear again).
I found Jane Fortune to be compelling, although some readers might find her reserved, haughty and a bit too judgmental. For me, however, she had a keen eye, a willingness to face her weaknesses and (usually) the good sense to bite her tongue for the sake of peace. Mostly, though, I savored this book for the similarities to Austen, with just enough difference to hold my interest.