Thank Goodness for Books!

There is nothing like moving house for raising stress levels to dangerous heights. It’s not the clearing out and packing that does it, no, it’s dealing with those organisations which appear to have been set up to provide the highest level of annoyance in the shortest possible time. Take phoning them up for instance; a long number followed by a long spiel about this and that, followed by a variety of numbers to press to get you through to another series of numbers till eventually, eventually you hear a human voice. Only to have it tell you that it’s going to cost you a lot of money to transfer/cancel/change whatever it is you’ve got with them.

Thank heavens for books and Jane Austen in particular! When I feel stressed I turn to her and this time it’s Mansfield Park. It’s quite a long time since I read it and I’ve discovered I’d forgotten quite a bit of the story. I remembered the part about the theatricals and the displeasure of Mr Bertram but I didn’t remember what came after. Fanny Price is such an insipid little thing that she wouldn’t stand a chance nowadays but then she was admired for her high principles and quiet ways. She’s in no way like the sparkling Elizabeth Bennet or the interfering, high-handed Emma Woodhouse; more like Jane Bennet perhaps, but even less confident of her charms.

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Another book I reread recently was Jo Baker’s take on Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view, Longbourn. Hill is given an interesting backstory which sheds a different light on the Bennets and on the master of the house in particular.

It’s glorious to escape into a book and put the day’s problems to one side. I’ve also read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a wonderful book with a feel-good message for all of us introverts who have ever felt apart from the mainstream of life, who have felt awkward amongst people, who have never fitted in – for everyone in fact.

All these books could be classed as romantic fiction; the heroines get their fella at the end, or are well on the road to doing so but you’d never find them alongside the Miils and Boon titles on the site of that great river of books purveyor.

So what makes them different? The quality of the writing for starters, the development of the characters, the depth and realism of the emotions portrayed – all add up to a rich and satisfying read and one which guarantees an escape from the trials of everyday life.

And I can’t miss out on a plug for my take on the genre – Festival Fireworks, published as an ebook on April 18th at its full price of $3.99 but available on a special pre-order cost of $1.39/99p.

FestivalFireworksbyAnnBurnettSMALLAD

Susan Ferrier, the Scottish Jane Austen

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Marriage by Susan Ferrier. I had never heard of this author, yet she was a very successful writer in the nineteenth century and her books were much admired by Sir Walter Scott. In fact, she earned far more from her writing than Jane Austen herself. But her name has disappeared from readers’ minds.

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Thanks to the Scottish writer, Val McDermid, that, hopefully, will change soon. She is publicising Ferrier’s work by having it illuminated across buildings in Edinburgh, Susan’s home town. Follow the link to read all about it.

Marriage is set in Edinburgh, the Highlands and London and follows two generations of women, mother and daughter, with very different views of life and love. Lady Juliana elopes with her lover, whom she marries and almost instantly regrets it when she meets up with his family in the Highlands. One of her daughters, Mary, is brought up by her aunt there while Lady Juliana returns to London and life, as she sees it. Mary eventually joins her there but is not enamoured of her mother and her behaviour.

Throughout, Ferrier’s wit and humour enliven the story and her telling little details of Scottish life in the capital and in the north, as well as her knowledge of London society, combine to produce a story to rival that of Austen at her best.

I can’t tell you the ending as I’m not there yet, but I wouldn’t spoil it for any of you potential readers even if I did.