It was sad to Fanny to lose all the pleasures of spring. She had not known before what pleasures she had to lose in passing March and April in a town. She had not known before how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation had delighted her. What animation, both of body and mind, she had derived from watching the advance of that season which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely, and seeing its increasing beauties from the earliest flowers in the warmest divisions of her aunt’s garden, to the opening of leaves of her uncle’s plantations, and the glory of his woods. – Mansfield Park
I dedicate this post to springtime, which we welcomed earlier this week. It is such a relief that the weather is warming, the flowers are blooming, and I can finally get my toddler outside to burn some of his abundant energy on a regular basis. What a relief!
Springtime has always been my favorite season. Tennyson wrote of youth, “That time is past,/ And all its aching joys are now no more,/And all its dizzy raptures,” but I always feel that in the spring something stirs inside us, “dizzying raptures” rekindle, and for a short time we relive the optimism and promise of our younger selves. Perhaps this year, as I see nature regenerate through a baby’s wondrous eyes, the effect has intensified.
Anyway, my point is that I’m super giddy on the season, and I thought I’d try to share some of my glee by offering my most recent novel, Being Mrs. Bennet, for free download on Kindle this weekend. It’s the story of a modern Janeite who finds herself trapped in the body of (you guessed it!) Mrs. Bennet, a plot which feels almost believable in spring, when the future is alive with possibility. Alison Bateman arrives in Hertfordshire at just this time of year, when Elizabeth is still in Kent (Easter took place on March 29th in 1812, when most scholars believe the action of the novel is supposed to occur). She has several weeks to acclimate herself to being a Bennet before the arrival of our heroine on the scene, who is not so quick as the rest of her family to accept the imposter. Here is a quick taste:
“Mom, can you hear me?”
I can you hear you, Lizzy!
“Mom. It’s me, Lizzy. Can you hear me?”
I can hear you, Lizzy! I’m right here!
“Mama? Mama, can you hear me?” An English voice startled Alison into consciousness. Her eyes slowly registered Elizabeth Bennet, who was standing by her bedside dressed for walking. If the sun was on the ascent, the windows did not yet expose the fact. Alison must have been looking at her favorite heroine with befuddlement, for Elizabeth soon explained, “I was told you have taken a liking to long walks, and I thought you might join me for my morning ramble.”
It only took a moment for Alison to fully awaken. A “morning ramble” with Elizabeth Bennet! Her dream of the real-life Lizzy was already forgotten when she eagerly responded, “Indeed! Just let me dress.”
Elizabeth helped her instead of calling for a servant, with Alison quickly extracting the most serviceable garments from the wardrobe, including the comfortable walking boots in which she had invested. They were soon out in the dewy spring morning, walking in no particular direction beneath the dawning sky.
“This is lovely!” Alison exclaimed as they paused to look out upon a sloping vista. Not a road dotted the landscape for miles, and only the sounds of birds, sheep, and the occasional cow reached her ears. For a moment, she wondered at herself for finding it all so novel, and then the memory of suburban streets intruded upon her vision, reminding her to wonder what would be on this very spot in her own time. Her own time … Somehow, when Elizabeth Bennet was her companion, the concerns of that world seemed to slip away. The thought made her heart race, but not as much as it should.
“Shall we rest on this rock for a while?” Elizabeth asked, gesturing to a large and flat protrusion along the side of the path they pursued.
“Mother Nature’s own answer to the park bench!” Alison proclaimed with nervous enthusiasm before seating herself with unnatural alacrity.
Elizabeth descended more wearily, perching herself about as far from her mother as she could with grace. They sat in silence for some moments, Alison smiling uneasily and Elizabeth studying her cautiously, her eyebrows pinched together in concentration. Elizabeth eventually broke the silence by calmly stating, “There is a spider on your gown.”
As the words were spoken, Alison became cognizant of the rather ordinary brown spider climbing up her skirt. Her eyes might have widened at the sight, but she did not start. Instead, she slowly leaned down to the side and picked up a stick, which she used to remove the intruder carefully from the fabric. Soon it was safely scurrying away from the surely terrifying encounter while Alison brushed off her gloves and gown.
“I knew it!” Elizabeth abruptly stood and proclaimed, pointing a finger at Alison. “It may sound mad, and I know not how it might have happened, but you are not my mother!”