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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lesser Novels of Jane Austen

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Jane Austen has endured as one of the great novelists in the English language, appealing not only to a broad popular audience who love her simply for her engaging stories, to middlebrows who praise her irony and realism, to an esoteric academic audience as well, who find her slyly "subversive" and "proto-feminist."  Her novels have been adapted for film, imitated by other writers, and loved and admired the world over.

Recently some of her early, unpublished works have come to light, promising a new treasure-trove for scholars and readers alike.

Fanny and Marianne - For years thought lost to posterity, this early novel was a precursor to Sense and Sensibility.  Written in epistolary form, it tells the story of Susan and her widowed mother who have been left nearly destitute after the late Mr. Dashwood leaves his fortune to Marianne's greedy half-sister Fanny.  Marianne meets the handsome and aloof Colonel Brandon who convinces her to repair the family fortunes by entering a "Dance-Off" in which she will challenge Fanny to a one-on-one dance competition where each will show off her skills.  But Fanny was all-county dance champion three years running, will Marianne be able to best her in the competition and follow her dream?

Lady Susan - Lady Susan is a sassy young vixen who knows what she wants and goes after it.  When the mob kidnaps a favorite uncle for repayment of a gambling debt, Susan must go undercover as an exotic dancer to rescue him.  Helped along the way by two very different by equally desirable men - Lieutenant Bamford, a nobleman of the Horse Guard, and bad-boy bandit and roustabout Dirks Dimplechin and aided by a wise-cracking lady's maid, Bomquisha, there are plenty of hijinks and high adventure leading to a high-octane conclusion.

Whazzam!  Formerly titled Whuzzup and before that, simply, 'Zup, the intellectual but nearly destitute Margaret is taken in by the wealthier branch of her family into Berkford Park, where she meets her handsome and aloof cousin Bertram, with whom she falls gradually in love.  But Bertram likes only "bad" girls, and bookish Margaret doesn't seem to have a chance until she meets a sassy wise-cracking man servant, Raul, who teaches her to "get down."  Can Margaret win the All-County Twerk-Off against three-time winner, the snooty and wealthy, Lady Beatrice who is affianced to Bertram, take the cash prize and the man?  And will she discover it's Raul whom she truly loves?  You'll have to read this page turner, with its dry wit and plot twists as well as an exciting helicopter chase to find out.

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