Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Editor
With two brilliant and beautifully-crafted short-story anthologies – one devoted to Mr. Darcy and one all about Jane Austen’s bad boys – already under her belt, editor Christina Boyd has decided to create a collection that solely spotlights some of Jane Austen’s female characters. And instead of focusing on just one character, like Elizabeth Bennet, or the main heroine of each tale, this collection spotlights sixteen different female characters from various Jane Austen works. Some of the characters featured are well-known and beloved heroines like Anne Elliot and Marianne Dashwood, some are less favored heroines like Fanny Price and Emma Woodhouse, some are popular secondary characters such as Charlotte Lucas and Elinor Tilney, and some are more unexpected choices like Louisa Musgrove, Penelope Clay, and Lady Susan (love that Lady Susan is included!). But what unites all these characters (and their stories in this collection) is that they are women of sense (sometimes lately developed or hidden), strength (although they may doubt it at times) and undeniable substance.
“In Austen’s fictional world, a single woman in possession of good intellect, must be in want of a man who recognizes its value.” – Devoney Looser (Foreword to Rational Creatures)
MY READING EXPERIENCE:
All stories in this anthology take place during the Regency period – either serving as prequels, sequels, or in some instances additional scenes or sequences that occur during the timeline of Jane Austen’s original novels. The stories range from 19 – 42 pages in length and are arranged in accordance with the order of novels published by Jane Austen (starting with Sense and Sensibility and ending with Lady Susan). I read all the stories in order (although readers can read them in any order of their choosing) and if I were to give a star rating for each individual story, it would be mostly 5 stars across the board with just one or two 4.5 star ratings.
The praise I have for this collection is immense. I have read and adored all the previous anthologies from The Quill Ink Collective and this one is BY FAR my favorite! The authors, Christina Boyd, and everyone involved has truly outdone themselves with this exceptionally perceptive and astute anthology. I absolutely adored the “rational creatures” motif, the focus on feminism and seizing your own happiness, and all the wonderfully diverse ways these characters are portrayed. The talented and skilled authors of this collection contributed stories that gave new insights to these characters, new understandings to their natures, and sometimes new chapters to their pasts or futures.
I couldn’t possibly decide which story I loved the most, because I loved each story for a variety of unique and special reasons. I loved the stories that shared a character’s innermost private feelings and thoughts and plausibly displayed their evolution and growth (examples: Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Emma Woodhouse, Harriet Smith). In addition, it was thrilling to see some splendidly beautiful courtships (that Miss Austen was a little too brief with!) take place leisurely and ever-so-satisfyingly (examples: Marianne Dashwood, Fanny Price). As well as those courtships we knew took place, but never saw much of on page (examples: Louisa Musgrove, Elinor Tilney). There were some stories that were reflective and fleshed out a character’s past in a surprising new way (examples: Hetty Bates, Sophia Croft) and some that featured these characters bravely taking action, being resourceful, and clever (examples: Mary Crawford, Penelope Clay, Catherine Morland, Lady Susan). Each story is insightful, compelling, and aptly demonstrates – whether practical or romantic, reserved or spirited – all characters featured within are thinking and feeling women worthy of the label “rational.”
Rational Creatures is an outstanding and flawless anthology that pays tribute to the complex and progressive female characters Jane Austen created and creatively exemplifies how through them she was not afraid to challenge the social norm of her time. This stellar collection is sure to entertain, enthrall, and inspire!!! I cannot recommend it enough!