Inspired and Influenced By Jane
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Dancing Mr. Darcy is a collection of winning entries from the Jane Austen Short Story Competition held in 2009. This competition was in celebration of the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival to Chawton village; and writers were asked to compose a short story that had a connection to Jane Austen, her novels, her Chawton home, or the Chawton House Library. The twenty writers chosen are all women of various ages; some even still in college! Although some are American, majority of the writers live in the United Kingdom. These women make a living as journalists, educators, artists, screenwriters, librarians, actresses, and of course, published writers. The stories range from seven to ten pages in length and have varying connecting links to Jane Austen. With some stories the connection is strong and obvious, like a story about Jane Austen characters, and with others the connection is more abstract, like contemporary stories inspired or influenced by Jane Austen.
MY READING EXPERIENCE:
I read this compilation over the span of one week, reading two to three stories a day. I put a post-it on each story’s first page, so I could leave myself some notes reminding me the themes and topics addressed in each story. Fifteen of the stories were contemporary or modern-day, five of them were historical. I gave each story a rating on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Here is a breakdown for each rating: 5 stars (six stories), 4 stars (six stories), 3 stars (five stories), and 2 stars (three stories).
My average rating was: 3.75
It is amazing to see how many diverse and unique ways Jane Austen can inspire writers! From Wentworth’s feeling of “half agony, half hope,” to Lydia Bennet’s ill-advised purchase of a bonnet! From Jane Austen’s pragmatic view of money, to her one night engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither! There are quite a few delightful little gems to be discovered in this compilation, but my favorite one was “Second Thoughts” by Elsa A. Solender. The author did a marvelous job of analyzing and representing Jane Austen’s every feeling and thought from the moment of Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal to Jane and Cassandra’s unplanned departure the next morning. I also really enjoyed the stories the intriguing little mystery detective Elinor Ferrars solved in “The Delaford Ladies’ Detective Agency” and the insightful glimpse of Mansfield Park from Mrs. Grant’s perspective we received in “Somewhere.” In addition, “Cleverclogs” and “The School Trip” were two beautiful and charming tales about young girls and their special relationships and experiences reading Jane Austen. Lastly, I loved “Eight Years Later,” an exquisite recreation of Persuasion where a student falls in love with his teacher.
However, there were some stories in this collection that disappointed more than they pleased. My main complaint is that they weren’t well-written. In some cases the writer included paragraphs of useless information, jumped from past to present too frequently, or were just plain hard to follow. However, these stories were few and far between.
Dancing with Mr. Darcy is an entertaining and praiseworthy compilation of short stories that will please and inspire many Austenites. Even though it may be a bit more abstract than traditional Jane Austen Fan Fiction and sadly doesn’t have anything to do with a dancing Darcy, I think many readers will appreciate the talent and merit of these selected writers!