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Modern Persuasion (21st Century Austen) Paperback – May 29, 2017
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About the Author
Sara Marks is an author, knitter, Wikipedian, and librarian from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, her family move to Miami, Florida when she was 3. There she spent the next 14 years of her life. She attended Florida State University for 3 years, but graduated with an A.A from Miami Dade College and a B.A. from Florida International University before moving back to Boston for graduate school. She hasn't left Massachusetts since (except to visit people and places in the world). Now, over fifteen years later and over 10 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, she is releasing her first novel, Modern Persuasion, with Illuminated Myth Publishing. Sara works with local writing group Mill Pages, which creates an annual anthology of short stories, poems, and art work. She is a member of the Society of Independent Publishers and Authors (SIPA), a group supporting writers in the Merrimack Valley.When she isn't writing, Sara is an academic librarian at University of Massachusetts Lowell. She has a masters degree in library science and another in Communications. She is an active Wikipedian who has been editing Wikipedia for over 10 years. She spent 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International where she twice earned the status of Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest status members can achieve. She is one of the local organizers for National Novel Writing Month. She is an avid knitter who designs and publishes her own patterns. She love unicorns, Paris, and the color purple.
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That said, Modern Persuasion didn't set out to make me a romance reader. It set out to be enjoyable, relatable, and cathartic. It succeeds.
I don't know the first thing about Persuasion, so I'll talk about Modern Persuasion not as a variation, but as it's own work. In terms of writing, it's quite enjoyable. It's written in a clear, engaging style, and the story moves along at a quick pace. It's the kind of book that gets to the point, but doesn't need a long presentation to feel complete.
The story deals with a pair of former lovers being forced to work together. In doing so, they must also confront their regrets and re-evaluate their pasts. It features lots of behind-the-scenes information on the publishing industry, all presented with a the comfortable confidence of a good researcher. This author knows her stuff, and I thought the details regarding the industry itself added lots of tone and flavor to the story. It's one of my favorite parts!
The main character, Emma Shaw, is not the type of protagonist I usually prefer. That said, by the end of the book, I was crossing my fingers and grinding my teeth for her. She's got a strong narrative voice, and the reader has a clear idea of who she is early on: confident, professional, and totally sick of everyone's drama. She initially struck me as bossy and overbearing, but there's a richness to her Throughout the story, we see Emma's vulnerabilities and insecurities bubble to the surface, but never in a way that makes her feel weak or too heavily deconstructed. Most importantly, Emma is starkly relatable. Though we may not be high profile players in the publishing world, we've probably all shared some of her anxieties. We may have had too much to drink at dinner and told our whole family what we thought about them, or said something embarrassingly stupid while trying to break an awkward silence, or even just stared at a letter from a lost loved one and cried. Emma's story, while perhaps far removed from many of our lives, is filled with familiar moments. Those moments are where the writing shines through the best.
I'm not sure I'd want to know Emma in real life, but I certainly enjoyed reading about her. Any criticisms I might have are products of the genre and perhaps the source material. As an adaptation, it's hard for me to rate it. As an independent read, especially in a genre that I generally don't touch....it's a treat. My greatest criticism lies in the irritating personalities of Emma's family and other supporting characters, but this is by design. Emma is tired of them, too. She's ready for something else.
Will she get it? You should read and find out.
Each time I get my hands on a modern retelling, I think what hooks me in initially is my overwhelming curiosity of how the author will describe the characters and what will be the setting. The book publishing industry was an interesting choice here and one not entirely unfamiliar especially when they were out on the book tour. Emma (aka Anne) is an accomplished editor and has all the makings of a brilliant publisher if her boss would only loosen up on the reins and let her follow her head. She has the gift of picking bestsellers and making an author golden. Her parents were industry legends though her dad is not doing well since his wife's death. And... neither is Emma, really, as she is content to tread water indefinitely.
On the flip side, there is Fredrick, the guy Emma walked away from when he wanted her to follow him to LA and live a life together. He went on to screenwrite a popular movie and now is a bestselling author on a book tour through Emma's publishing house. Oh my, that reunion meet cute was as cringe-worthy as you imagine and the awkward tour was a test in fortitude for both Freddy and Emma.
Overall, I thought this was a great tribute to the original story while also proving it was a solid original piece of its own. It has Persuasion nuances, but it didn't take long for me to realize that Emma is no self-effacing Anne who is loaded down with regret all around. Emma has one regret, but also has lots of non-regrets, too. She followed her dreams and is good at what she does with quite a bit of respect and admiration in the world she inhabits. Fredrick might be the Hollywood writer, but really, it is Emma who is the success story here that everyone in the book industry is buzzing about. I say that because this is the dynamic that is the domino effect changing things all the way through.
This is a romance, but it is also very much a women's fiction. This is Emma's story of what she does when she gets the chance at a reset. She is confronted with her past in a visceral way and spends a great deal of time pondering if she made the right decision back when she was twenty-two and fresh out of college, if the past should be left in the past, or, as many are hinting, is this a new opportunity eight years later because she is in a different place in her life as is Fredrick and what does it matter if he still hates her.
I think this more put together Anne figure will appeal to more people. Those who adore Persuasion and don't mind it set in modern day will read it and have a good time, but I think this is also for those who might not have liked the meeker Anne of Austen's novel, but would enjoy her 2.0 version in Emma. And drunk Emma is really quite the woman to be reckoned with, let me tell you.
So, yes, I was well pleased with Modern Persuasion and feel it has strong appeal for contemporary romance and women's fiction fans alike whether or not the reader has read or watched a tv adaption of Austen's Persuasion or not.
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SETTING: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago Present-day
– Emma Shaw (Anne): an...Read more