Thursday, March 21, 2013

Austen Revisited

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen's Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell

In June, I will be hosting a number of Jane Austen themed programs including a Jane Austen impersonator. In preparation for the festivities, it’s my duty to read as much Austen inspired literature as possible. What a difficult life I lead. :-)   Thus, here is the first installment of my Austen-inspired reading.

Napoleon Bonaparte has escaped Elba and is back on the continent to claim France as his dominion. Here begins our tale. Over in jolly old England we meet back up with two of our favorite Colonels from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, that is Colonel Fitzwilliam and Colonel Brandon. There is a newcomer to this bunch in the form of former rogue, Colonel Buford. We follow the three through their romantic entanglements with other well-known characters and then in the end, at the Battle of Waterloo. This novel focuses on new relationships forming between Colonel Buford and Caroline Bingley along with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Bourgh.

Although it had its eye rolling love scene, this novel was well done. Jack Caldwell did a wonderful job of bringing to life new characters, while keeping the old relationships at arm’s length so as not to ruin the relationship the reader had formed with Jane Austen’s characters in former novels. He writes about characters who are seldom mentioned, or minor characters in her other books. In this way, he doesn’t have the problem of having to both remain true to Austen’s main characters and please fans by remaining faithful, yet adding onto the stories.

I found some of the characters’ actions a bit unbelievable. For example, though I truly enjoyed her as a character in this book, I do not know that Caroline Bingley could completely reform herself from the woman she was in P&P. Caldwell goes into the detail of how Caroline sees the error of her ways, but it’s just a little too righteous for a character who was such a social climbing ninny. He also has Mr. Collins have a realization about Lady Catherine and even apologize for his errors. No. Stop right there. Mr. Collins is fun and annoying because he is so oblivious. Don’t turn him into something he isn’t.

I truly enjoyed the parallel story lines and even the intermingling of other notorious characters from Persuasion and NorthangerAbbey. Caldwell also did an excellent job portraying the characters and military strategy during the Battle of Waterloo. Other than my discomfiture with characters’ actions, as stated above, I did not have any complaints. The story is fast and compelling. I found myself wanting to stay up late and get up early to read this novel.

If you are a Jane Austen fan, might I suggest An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan. It is the first in a trio of books written from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s perspective as his journal during the period of Pride and Prejudice.

~Kristin M.

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