Rebecca Ann Collins
The Pemberley Chronicles Series
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Preview - Expectations of Happiness
Averil Rose is a retired teacher and scholar of Jane Austen’s work. She lives chiefly in the UK.
Dear Ms Collins,
Thank you very much for sending me the text of your new book- Expectations of Happiness
I must say at once that it was, for me, a real treat to read a chapter or two at the end of each busy day. I came to look forward to it, and what a pleasure it has been. As a hopeless Jane Austen addict for over forty years, I am quite amazed at the skill with which you have moved from the environs of Pemberley with its broad acres and traditions of gracious living to the depiction of a small circle of family, friends and neighbours in the south of England- which of course was Miss Austen’s own definition of her canvas.
The transition is so convincing because you have captured the intimacy and warmth of a family, living simply in rural England with authenticity. While we do not have the vast canvas of English social and political history that forms the background of the Pemberley Series, we are drawn into the quieter domestic context of the lives of Elinor and Edward, Margaret, Marianne and Mrs Dashwood, where the problems that confront the characters are no less challenging.
Within these circumscribed boundaries, we watch the four women play out their roles with remarkable credibility – as you develop their stories by drawing upon the clues and character traits left by Miss Austen.
Sense and Sensibility puzzled me, particularly because of the somewhat unsatisfactory way in which Marianne- the most interesting character in the original novel, after her disastrous affair with Willoughby, is bundled off into a marriage with Colonel Brandon, We know he loves her, but of her commitment to him we have very little evidence. It is a fate that none of Miss Austen’s other ‘heroines’ have to face- since all of them- Elizabeth, Jane, Emma, Anne Elliot and even young Catherine Morland ( Northanger Abbey) are deeply in love with the men they marry. Marianne is grateful and pleased to be loved and cherished, but does she really love Brandon? There
is little convincing evidence, apart from the author’s assertion at the end of the novel.
Reading your companion volume has given me a whole new perspective on the characters and their situation with the almost inevitable conclusion that this story had further to run than the final chapter of Sense and Sensibility.
My congratulations on the manner and style with which you have progressed the plot and characters and done so well with young Margaret too. I had paid very little attention to her in the original novel, seeing only a thirteen year old girl making up the numbers in the family, so to speak. I am absolutely intrigued and thrilled with the grown up Margaret- intelligent, passionate and strong- yet with a degree of softness that is so appealing as in Anne Elliott ( Persuasion )who is still my favourite Austen heroine.
Of Elinor and Edward there is little to be said except that their innate goodness and virtue are even better realised in Expectations of Happiness – indeed Edward is a good deal more interesting seven years on. The same can be said in reverse of the odious John and Fanny Dashwood- whose incipient meanness is even more apparent.
The use of the “minor characters” from Sense and Sensibility not merely to fill out the cast, but to enrich the story with humour and progress the plot is especially noteworthy. Sir John Middleton, Mrs Jennings, the Palmers, even Mrs Ferrars and Lucy Steele are so well integrated into the narrative, each bringing something of the quality that Jane Austen bestowed on them, to add interest to the novel.
As for Willoughby, congratulations on resisting the temptation to have him grow horns and a tail-the iconic villain of 19th century novels, who runs away with the foolish wife of a decent man. Instead, he is still charming, dissolute and much more dangerous, now he is affluent as well, and presents as the perfect foil for Colonel Brandon- a fact that Marianne comes to understand rather late in the day. Willoughby got off rather lightly I thought, in the original novel; I do believe he gets his just desserts this time around.
I like your new characters too- Margaret’s friend- Claire Jones is fun to be with –liberal minded and witty, she is one of the new breed of educated, “working women”, whom we meet later in the work of Dickens, Gaskell and George Elliott.
I loved young Mr Armitage the publisher and with Daniel Brooke, you have added another name to the list of engaging gentlemen we met in the volumes of the Pemberley Series. Drawn from the halls of Academe rather than the groves of Pemberley or the Parliament, Mr Brooke is a representative of a small group of Englishmen of that era- learned, well read, and interested in subjects beyond the range of activities that absorbed the typical Regency man about town.
That Margaret is drawn to him by his intellect as well as his kindly disposition is a credit to her values and sensibility. They make a very believable and endearing couple and I am not surprised that you have made their story the heart of the novel.
I could say so much more but, I feel I should get this away to you as soon as possible since it may be useful for your web page. My very best wishes for what is sure to be another successful venture.
Yours very sincerely,