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Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation (Warleigh Hall Press Jane Austen) Paperback – February 3, 2022
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Harriet is an intriguing and original "take" on Jane Austen's immortal Emma, by Publishers Weekly's 2021 BookLife Prize Quarterfinalist, Alice McVeigh.
Emma, a privileged young heiress, decides to mentor Harriet Smith, a pretty boarding-school pupil, and to matchmake her as eligibly as she can... But how is she to guess that Harriet has a secret?
Meanwhile, the brilliant, penniless Jane Fairfax consents to a clandestine engagement with Frank Churchill - though not daring to confess, even to him, that she is being relentlessly pursued by her best friend's husband.
Harriet sidelines Emma herself in favour of the ingenious Harriet and the fascinating Jane Fairfax. It is Emma - but an Emma with a surprisingly believable twist in its tail.
"A dynamic take on a revered classic. This is still Austen's Emma-but the story that unfolds through the recollections of these two 'side' characters feels remarkably fresh... With or without an understanding of Emma, Harriet contains a fully-formed narrative that should satisfy even the choosiest Austen fans... Readers will rarely find the words 'page-turner' and 'Jane Austen' in the same sentence, but McVeigh's impeccably written Harriet certainly fits the bill." (IndieReader)
"A highly engrossing novel that captures the spirit of Austen and celebrates all the best qualities of her work from new and innovative angles... The characters are vibrant and full of life - McVeigh hits the mark spot-on." (Readers Favorite editorial review)
"An enchanting recreation of Austen's world" (James Conroyd Martin)
"McVeigh puts a unique spin on this fresh take of one of Jane Austen's most popular works. The characters are vibrant and full of life. McVeigh hits the mark spot-on, capturing the essence of Jane Austen's work and providing a rare glimpse into the headspace of some of her most popular secondary characters. I can honestly say that I didn't foresee the twist towards the end, yet in hindsight, it felt satisfying. Any fan of character-driven novels should grab a copy. (Readers Favorite Editorial review)
Classic regency fiction in the tradition of Pride and Prejudice: Harriet will appeal to Jane Austen groupies, Bridgerton fans and Georgette Heyer lovers alike.
About the Author
- Publisher : Warleigh Hall Press (February 3, 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 332 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1916882331
- ISBN-13 : 978-1916882331
- Item Weight : 11.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.06 x 0.74 x 7.81 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,276,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #19,871 in Regency Romances
- #77,165 in Historical Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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The reading of neither is improved by this. Just as you're getting settled into one story, you're jerked out of it and sent off to read the other, sometimes for as much as a dozen chapters, before being readmitted to the one you'd originally begun. In addition, there doesn't seem to be any reason to connect the two. The heroines are very different people; the tales almost completely separate, with nothing from one to influence or alter the other except what comes from Jane Austen's original Emma.
As far as I can tell, the only reason why the author combined the two books was that she wanted to write the Harriet novel but couldn't resist Jane Fairfax, Austen's most melodramatic heroine. And I'm glad she wrote the Fairfax story, because although it doesn't have a twist to distinguish it from the original story as it was told in Emma, it's still always a lot of fun to read from Jane's perspective, and this interpretation of her was done rather well.
I just wish she'd made a separate book out of Jane's story, and confined this one to Harriet's, because the twists in *that* book are interesting enough not to make me want to leave them alone for the myriad interruptions of Jane's. If I could have read these in succession rather than at the same time, I would have been delighted by the Harriet story and well enough pleased by the Jane story, but together they are both somewhat weakened.
The style is not Austenesque and doesn't try to be, but I didn't see any of the glaring modernisms that show up in too many of the badly written Austen variations out there. ("Okay" is the one I hate most -- in the mouth of a Regency heroine!! Thankfully, there's none of that here.)
The twists are very simple and leave the story mostly untouched -- only the viewpoint and the viewpoint character's internal thoughts change with them, for the most part. After the number of Austen variations I've seen in which the twists that alter the story from the original are so extreme as to leave virtually nothing of the original story to work with (for example, Elizabeth Bennet goes to London to run a bookstore, or somebody gets knocked on the head and developed amnesia) it was frankly a delight to see an idea so straightforward that I'm surprised nobody came up with it before: what if Harriet Smith wasn't the blithe little brainless beauty she's portrayed as in Emma? What if she was simply smart enough to keep her intelligence under wraps, knowing that Emma would not like to be upstaged?
What, in short, if she were manipulating Emma deliberately from square one?
This could have led to a really unlikeable character, but it mostly didn't... because we are inclined to agree with her view of Emma herself, and therefore why that sort of flattery was necessary, and because Harriet improves gradually over the course of the book. Her relationships with Robert Martin, and with Mr. Knightley, likewise develop slowly and naturally, and reach the eventual change in her feelings without seeming too forced.
I liked the name-dropping from Mansfield Park -- including the Rushworths and Crawfords as minor characters (primarily in the Jane story) was fun.
In general, while I had very minor criticisms of the story which I'll leave out because they'd require spoiler warnings to explain, my only really significant objection was the combining of these two stories into one. Why on earth didn't the author write these two books individually? There's nothing that says you can't write two different Emma variants in one lifetime?
I hope she'll consider publishing them separately someday, as individual novels. But for now, it's pleasant reading anyway, if you can accept that you will have to switch back and forth frequently between the two.
I enjoyed the way she blended characters from Mansfield Park with those from Emma.
She extended some of Dear Jane’s speeches, and put into words some scenes which are summarized in the canon. I couldn’t have known which parts weren’t original if I didn’t know the novels so well. So, yes, she *definitely* has attained the Austenite style.
Minor complaint – sometimes I forgot which character was narrating a chapter. If the table of contents had read, “Chapter 1 – Jane; Chapter 2, - Jane; Chapter 3 – Harriet” etc. it would have been easier to follow.
There are a minimal number of proofreading typographical errors, mostly who/whom and shall/will, which made for a smooth read.
I see there is one book prior to this, Susan, that I shall purchase and bring to the top of my TBR list. Truly enjoyable!