Monday, August 07, 2006

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (by Stephanie Barron)

The premise of the novel (the first in a series) is that Jane Austen solves mysteries. The conceit is that Austen's mystery-solving diaries have been unearthed, and they are now being edited by Stephanie Barron. This book... is pretty damn silly, to be honest. And it has some problems.

First of all, of course, it's implausible. Jane Austen constantly finds herself alone with men who confide in her; if you've watched any Austen adaptation, you know how unlikely that ever is to happen. The impropriety, I mean. There's also a lot of repurposing of Austen's own lines (and I only noticed the really famous ones, so god only knows how much of her less famous writing was in there), which gives me the impression that Barron didn't have enough creativity to really try and pull off the Austen trick. As this review says, the footnotes are extraneous and distracting.

But you know, I don't think you go into a "Jane Austen solves mysteries" novel expecting literary greatness. I enjoy mysteries and I enjoy Jane Austen. I probably wouldn't buy the rest of them, but I'll probably check them out of the library for some light and fluffy fun reading. She can't work the "a single man of good fortune" line into every book in the series, can she?


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