I’m delighted to be a stop on Shannon Winslow’s Blog Tour for her new release, For Myself Alone! In her guest post today, she discusses the implications of gossip and shares with us an excerpt from her new novel! Thank you, Shannon, for including Austenesque Reviews on your blog tour! We wish you the best of luck in your new release!
The Gossip Game
Where did “inquiring minds” find entertainment before Peoplemagazine and tabloid TV? Mr. Bennet gives us the answer: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 57) He calls the rumors and innuendo contained in Mr. Collins’s letter admirable, amusing, and delightfully absurd, declaring, “I would not give up Mr. Collins’s correspondence for any consideration. Nay, when I read a letter of his, I cannot help giving him the preference even over Wickham, much as I value the impudence and hypocrisy of my son-in-law.”
And speaking of Wickham, he takes it one step further, crossing over the line from gossip to slander:
“I have no right to give myopinion,” said Wickham… “I have known him too long and too well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for meto be impartial…(but then he proceeds to dish his dirt on Darcy anyway)…We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim to all the world; a sense of very great ill usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is… His behavior to myself has been scandalous. (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 16)
Gossip and slander play pivotal roles in my new, Austen-inspired novel For Myself Alone. In fact, the prologue is nothing but:
Through the first two decades of her existence, Josephine Walker led a singularly uneventful and ordinary life that gave little hint of what was to come. She had done nothing in that period to significantly distinguish herself from her contemporaries by way of either excessively good or prodigiously bad behavior. So it was, therefore, a matter of considerable surprise to those who best knew her when, at the promising age of one-and-twenty, she became the concentrated focus of so much local speculation and gossip.
The inhabitants of a place so unaccustomed to serious scandal could not reasonably be expected to ignore an exceptional bit of news when it came their way. Tongues wagged tirelessly as accounts of “the trouble in Bath” made the rounds. Where or how it began not one of the residents of Wallerton, in Hampshire, could testify with any security. What is not in dispute, however, is that Mrs. Oddbody was overheard dishing out a fine portion of the story to her neighbor in the street one day.
“My dear Mrs. Givens, have you heard about Miss Walker? She is just returned from Bath, you know, and in quite a state of agitation. There is big trouble brewing with that young man of hers; depend upon it. I expect it is the corrupt atmosphere that worked the mischief. The things that go on in that town. Well, let me tell you, it is quite shocking! I daresay many a respectable young woman has lost her character in that heathen place.”
Mrs. Givens, being of an unselfish nature, shared the somewhat-altered morsel with her husband. “Miss Walker has completely lost her character, Mr. Givens. I have just had it from Mrs. Oddbody, a most reliable source. Evidently, she began cavorting with a very unsavory element in town, keeping company with some strange man. Now she has brought a great calamity down upon her head.”
Mr. Givens, in turn, generously passed the tidbit on to his brother-in-law Mr. Pigeon, adding his own considered opinion to the report. “It will lead to legal action, I shouldn’t wonder. It shows a careless disregard for the credit of her family to involve herself with a man of obscurity. Then, as they say, ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree.’ Was there not rumor of some trouble of that kind with the mother years ago?”
Mr. Pigeon recapitulated the account to his wife. “They say the mother is to blame…”
And so it goes. I’m probably dating myself here, but I was thinking of a party game (actually called “Gossip,” I believe) we used to play as kids, where you would send a “secret” through a string of people, whispered from ear to ear until it came out unrecognizable at the other end. That’s what I had in mind when I wrote this. Although there’s no malicious intent here, the results are still damaging. Later in the book, a life-long friendship is nearly destroyed by a more deliberate case of character assassination.
Poor Jo. She really gets put through the wringer – fortune hunters, a two-faced friend, a breach-of-promise suit, on top of the slanderous gossip of her neighbors. It’s all part of the conflict necessary for a good story. As a writer, I have to torture my characters on the page. As human beings, I hope we are kinder with the words we say, write, text, and tweet.
Can you think of another case of gossip, harmful or harmless, in a Jane Austen novel? Who was the perpetrator, and who the victim? What character gets your vote for the biggest gossip in all Austen-dom?
Set in nineteenth century Hampshire and Bath, For Myself Alone is the tale of Josephine Walker, a bright, young woman whose quiet life is turned upside-down by an unexpected inheritance. With a tempting fortune of twenty thousand pounds, she’s suddenly the most popular girl in town. Yet Jo longs to be valued for who she is, not for her bank balance. She cannot respect the men who pursue her for her money, and the only one she does admire is considered the property of her best friend. Now, even the motives of her new fiancé are suspect. Does he truly love her for herself alone? There’s one sure, but extreme, way to find out… if she has the courage to take it.
GIVEAWAY!!! Today Author Shannon Winslow generously brings with her ONE BRAND NEW paperback copy and TWO EBOOK copies of For Myself Alone for me to giveaway!!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this guestpost answering one of Shannon’s questions above. (To save your inbox from unwanted spam, please don’t leave your email address.) Just check back to see if you win! Fortunately for our international friends, the ebook giveaway is open worldwide! (The paperback giveaway is open to US and Canada residents) Thank you, Shannon!!
This contest ends April 30th!!! Best of luck and thank you for entering!