Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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!”