Feb 262018

A Summer Sojourn to Northanger Abbey 20 Years Later

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Purchased

If you are a long-time reader of this blog, than you may have noticed that I am often drawn to older and rarer Austenesque sequels – ones that nowadays are out of print and only available through third party sellers. These stories that were published pre-1995 often focus on Jane Austen’s secondary and tertiary characters, avoid Jane Austen’s main heroes and heroines, and are more often sequels than variations.  Back before the great rise in self-publishing and JAFF popularity, these types of books were very little loved. Many Jane Austen fans were not impressed by other writers who dared to write about Jane Austen’s characters and in Jane Austen’s style. Since I love Jane Austen’s secondary characters and love hunting for rare books, I try to read any older Austenesque book I can find.

Jane Gillespie is the author of several sequels (which according to Amazon and Goodreads, appear to total 9). I’ve read four of her stories so far (but only reviewed one other on my blog). In Uninvited Guests she takes readers back to Northanger Abbey about twenty years after the close of Jane Austen’s tale. And while we don’t see Catherine or Henry, readers do see more of some other characters. I noticed that the full blurb is missing on Amazon, so I thought it would be helpful if I copied it here in my review:

It is some 20 years since the close of Northanger Abbey. Colonel Frederick Tilney has inherited the ancestral home, and is still vain, self-centered, and inclined to coast on his name. He has spent little time at home and when encounters John Thorpe in Bath, he takes his old acquaintance’s word that the Abbey is in need of repairs, and takes him up on his offer to oversee the work.

It appears John Thorpe believes himself an improver of estates and has convinced Colonel Tilney that Northanger Abbey is in desperate need of repairs! Fully prepared to exercise his expert skills and spend the summer designing and orchestrating grand improvements with someone else’s purse, John Thorpe does not anticipate a house full of guests while he accomplishes this endeavor… First it is his widowed sister who claims she was kicked out of her sister’s house, than it is her son and his pupil, than it is Colonel Tilney’s eldest daughter. Who else will unexpectedly arrive at Northanger Abbey this summer???

It may be completely odd that I am saying this, but I loved that this story focused on the Thorpes! I think both characters perfectly exhibit Jane Austen’s satirical gift and acerbic sense of humor. To pay them a visit twenty years later and see how they are very much what they ever were is too delicious an opportunity! I loved the humor of John Thorpe being a grand improver, yet actually doing little more than making a mess everywhere. Seeing the other characters and servants at Northanger Abbey react to him was pure entertainment. Especially when he starts going about excavating the grounds and looking for the original chapel. Can you imagine? General Tilney is turning in his grave! And Isabella Firth (interesting last name, right?) née Thorpe, is exactly as I would expect her – peevish, disappointed with her life, selfish, and still scheming. Her actions and behavior were wonderfully loathsome; she has turned into the type of character one loves to hate. Isabella seems to have a lot in common with Lady Susan Vernon in this story! I’ve never made that comparison before now, but it definitely works.

At 171 pages this isn’t a very lengthy tale and there isn’t much romance (there is a little though) to entice modern-day Austenesque fans. This tale instead captures a very plausible and intuitive snapshot of Jane Austen’s characters and what misadventures and escapades befall them. Uninvited Guests is a great choice for readers who enjoy stories about Northanger Abbey, secondary characters, and who “dearly love a laugh!”

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  27 Responses to “Uninvited Guests – Jane Gillespie”


    I wait to see if there ever will be a ebook available of it because I would certainly read it


    That’s an interesting kind of sequel! Thanks for highlighting it. Speaking of early Austenesque works, did you ever read John Coates’s completion of The Watsons? It was first published, I think, around 1956 and reissued in the late 1970s (incidentally blighting my hopes as I was working on a completion myself at that time, and publishers were all, “Two is too many”). I remember being disappointed in it when I read it back then, but have long wondered if I shouldn’t revisit it.


      Thanks for checking out my review, Abigail. 🙂

      Yes, I did! It was the first continuation of The Watsons I read. And my first official review on this blog. 🙂 I’m so sorry your plans to write a continuation were thwarted! I don’t think there are too many! In fact, I read another a few years back that I thoroughly enjoyed and it is quite different from John Coates – it is titled Emma and Elizabeth by Ann Mychal. I think there is a lot of lovely potential and interpretation with both of Jane Austen’s unfinished works.


    I too love the older Austenesque books. Had not heard of this one.


      Yay! I’m not surprised you haven’t, as far as older Austenesque Ms. Gillespie’s works seem to be less well-known over others, perhaps because she focused more on obscure characters and the fact that her titles would never tip you off that her stories are about Jane Austen’s characters!


    Sound interesting Meredith. Just had a look to see if there’s any copies on Amazon UK but can’t find any. Ah well, shall have to keep my eyes peeled in secondhand bookshops.


    Great review Meredith. Wow! I cannot imagine 20 years later. What fun!!


    Yikes, it cost $99 on Amazon!


    Sounds interesting!! I’m not as familiar with Northanger Abbey as I am with the rest of Austen’s works; I think a re-read is coming before I tackle this work!

    Thanks for your wonderfully insightful review, Meredith!

    Susanne 🙂


      As long as you remember the gist of what happened between certain characters you’d be in good shape for this work. The author alludes to events in the past, but does so in a way to help any who haven’t read the original work. Thanks for checking out my review!


    I like that you hunt for ‘old’ Austenesque sequels and bring them to our attention. This one certainly sounds interesting and ‘Isabella Firth’ obviously didn’t wind up with Colin Firth’s ancestor…LOL!


      I’m glad you find them interesting! 😉 I know they might not be everyones’ cup of tea, but I have a fondness for them because I started reading Austenesque in 2003 and not many Austenesque books were published at that time! LOL! I thought that last name was so funny! Especially as the book came out before 1995. 🙂


    I remember the last time you reviewed a Jane Gillespie book I went searching for it. Like you said, out of print and only available from a third party. I’ve had a couple on my wish list for awhile. I wish with a renewed interest in the books they might be republished. I really struggle with small print anymore, so it’s nearly always ebooks for me. Northanger Abbey isn’t my favorite, but I liked your review and I can see where the Thorpes would provide a lot of humor after aging twenty years. If I give in and purchase an out of print oldie-but-goodie I think I’d choose one with different characters. Isn’t it interesting how today’s seemingly ongoing love of everything Austen and Austenesque those stories might have been received much better!?


      I agree! It would be so lovely for these books to be rereleased! And like you said it would be great for the authors to have a different reaction from readers too! Which characters are you most interested in reading about? Maybe I know of an oldie that might particularly enjoy!


        I will have to think on that question. You know, I’ll be going back to the Jane Gillespie books I put on my wish list, to read their blurbs.

        We don’t see too many continuations of Emma, I’d like to see what happens after few years have gone by with those characters. Remember my commenting about Sarah Waldock’s book about William Price? She’s written a series about Jane Fairfax Churchill and what happens to her after Frank’s passing. Those do have some scenes back in Hartfield. Her books have subtle romance but it is there. But there’s a lot of humor! I’m so glad to hear she’s doing better this year, and also that she’s re-editing her existing books over time. She’s self-published and an oldster like myself and has had to learn a thing or three about formatting. And check out her Cousin Prudence. Love it.

        It’s kind of funny to think over that question because as I’m thinking about which characters I liked from Austen’s books I almost immediately think of someone’s book that has them that I can’t think of improving on…..until the next one comes out. :/


          Well, my first suggestion if you haven’t read them already is the series by Joan Austen-Leigh – A Visit to Highbury and Later Days at Highbury. Loved them both although they deal more with Mrs. Godard and her sister. 😉 Also loved Joan Aiken’s Jane Fairfax. But I know there are many other books about Jane Fairfax as you mentioned. I have another book about her in my TBR pile.


            THANK YOU! I will check the Joan Austen-Leigh series and Joan Aiken out! Oh my that TBR pile!!!


            Meredith….can you believe this? When I searched Joan Austen-Leigh on Amazon it showed I owned both books already….good grief. Packed away sometime last year getting ready for our move. Out of sight out of mind. And no, out of the many books I had to (sniff, sniff) part with none of them were Jane Austen or Austenesque. So embarrassing though. 🙂 A lot of factors have gone into the not being able to unpack my books though…yet they are calling me more than ever now.


            LOL! That’s great that you own them, what a nice surprise! 😉 I understand about not unpacking books! Ours stayed in totes for a long while after we moved! How fun it will be when you can unpack them!!


    Glad you shared this one with us. NA sequels, variations, or anything are rare to come by. 🙂


    Thank you for your review. I doubt I would read this as it seems that there is no e-book and finding a paperback would be difficult plus I don’t want another book due to space limitations. I did enjoy NA.

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