Something Serious From Karen? Yes. A Memorial Day Tribute & A Book Review of “Wooing Mr. Wickham”
I know. Nobody expects anything serious from me, do they? Yes, I can be serious. Just ask my kids! They know better than to mess with me!
Seriously though… it’s Memorial Day here in the states. This means bbqs, trips to the beaches and pools and officially being able to wear white skirts and pants, but all of us have a veteran (or several) in our thoughts today. Some are out on active duty right now, others have served in the past, some are living, some are gone.
Today I’ll be thinking of my dad, who had an even better sense of humor than I (is it possible? ha ha). He passed away three years ago right after Memorial Day weekend, which was appropriate as he served in the Korean War. He served as a typist! And that, in itself, was something he and my entire family laughed about. He was a damn fast typist, though, that was for sure. Hats off to my dad, who became an artist after serving in Korea. I miss him, and so many things about him, but mostly I miss his sense of humor. Hats off to all the veterans who served, even if they (just) sat in an office and typed.
And this brings me to my segue as to how this relates to our favorite British author, Jane Austen.
Did you know that Jane Austen’s novels were often taken to the front during World Wars I and II? The novels provided calming, soothing thoughts of home and an orderly life to soldiers who needed an escape. Austen’s novels were also used to help soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder. Thank you, Jane!
In honor of veterans everywhere, I’m posting a book review of the anthology Wooing Mr. Wickham that I wrote for the Jane Austen Society of North America-Greater Chicago Region newsletter in January, and here’s why… one of our prominent board members, Elisabeth Lenckos, wrote a short story that was included in the anthology called Jane Austen: 1945. Her story is about a soldier bringing Pride and Prejudice to the front.
Without further ado, here’s the book review as it ran in January…
Wooing Mr. Wickham Will Win You Over
by Karen Doornebos, Author of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy
To warm a winter’s eve, a Jane Austen fan would do well to pour a cup of tea, pick up Wooing Mr. Wickham, and enjoy. The anthology of twenty eclectic short stories inspired by Austen’s heroes and villains offers something for everyone—from a Brahmin CEO named Firdous Darshan to a Lydia that has fallen in with the Ladies of Llangollen. (If you don’t know who the Ladies of Llangollen are, I encourage you to Google them.)
For us JASNA-GCR members, we can take in a compelling and thought-provoking story, Jane Austen: 1945, written by our very own Elisabeth Lenckos and inspired by her German mother and grandmother’s wartime tales. Yes, this is Lenckos’ fiction debut!
It is a true honor and indication of talent to be included in this anthology as the stories were chosen from a plethora of contest entries. Chawton House Library in England sponsored the contest, their second annual, to encourage contemporary creative writing. Entries poured in from fifteen different countries, from Australia to Siberia.
As a result, the stories have a fresh, international flavor, peppered with settings and timeframes other than the Regency. They run the range from humorous to profound.
A panel of author and editor judges, Michele Roberts, Lindsay Ashford, and Janet Thomas, selected twenty for publication and awarded one of the stories, The Pleasures of the Other by Paul Brownsey, for the 2011 Jane Austen Short Story Award. He’s the one that melded Lydia, Wickham, and the aforementioned Ladies of Llangollen to magnificent effect. It’s a must-read!
The collection includes nods to many of Austen’s characters and recurring themes of second chances in love, imaginations run wild, and prejudices overcome.
Many of the stories are stand-outs, including Empty Hands by Rebecca Rouillard. It’s about an Alzheimer’s patient that believes she’s Elizabeth Bennet. Get your Kleenex out for this one. Her homage to everyday heroes, and not just the alpha male hero, is touching, as is her metaphor for Alzheimer’s:
“But her memory sustains it like a fistful of sand—in this moment of clarity it is gritty and substantial but it is so hard to hold on to. It will slip away again soon enough and she will be adrift once again, with empty hands.”
Just as poignant and powerful is Lenckos’ Jane Austen: 1945, and, without revealing too much of the story, a thirteen-year old girl is saved, in a sense, by Pride and Prejudice as she suffers the indignities of war, including having to hide in a burrow for protection:
“After she placed me in this hole, she had covered me with earth, leaving small openings only for my nose and mouth… My bones grew colder and damper; I breathed uneasily through the clumps of mud heaped upon me.”
In Katie by Susan Piper we get a glimpse of Lady Catherine on her deathbed. The thought-provoking backstory Piper weaves for Lady Catherine encourages us to think that something must have happened in Lady Catherine’s past to make her the way she is, and I like Piper’s take on it.
On the humorous end of the spectrum, I enjoyed much of Les Wood’s The Darcy Syndrome, although I admit I may not be young nor hip enough to have understood all of it! I found Henry Tilney Attempts to Cure His Wife by Sarah Taylor charming, although, I am a big Henry Tilney fan, and I missed his sense of humor in this story.
Little Elegant Compliments by Jacqueline Jean Barrios, a modern take on Charlotte and Mr. Collin’s marriage, proved to be a very curious and engaging story, and well worth the read. #
Happy Memorial Day everyone.
Who is in your thoughts today?