Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ellie Bennett Interview - Images and Portraits of Jane Austen

Ellie Bennett
I'd like to welcome Ellie Bennett to my blog today (yes, that's her real name) - Ellie is a writer interested in portraits of Jane Austen, and as Jane's image is a particular interest of mine, I've been fascinated to read her new thoughts and discoveries on the subject. I recently interviewed her and it's made me keener than ever to read more! Luckily for us, Ellie not only has a fabulous blog, she is also writing a book, and I can't wait to read it.


1. You've started a blog writing about portraits of Jane Austen, Ellie. When did you first become interested in Jane Austen and what was it about her image that interested you?

I've enjoyed reading Jane Austen since I was a teenager, but my interest in her image and portraits really began when I watched the BBC documentary The Unseen Portrait, screened on Boxing Day in 2011, about the portrait now owned by Dr Paula Byrne. I found the programme fascinating and I was immediately hooked! 


2. You've been researching into two portraits which I find particularly interesting: the Rice Portrait and Paula Byrne's portrait that was bought for her at auction. Can you tell us a little about what new information you have unearthed on these pictures and what you found most fascinating in your own research?

Both of these portraits are so interesting and I have found out plenty of new information about both of them  - information which was previously unknown. With regard to the Rice Portrait, I have researched the identity of Eliza Hall who was given the portrait early in its history. I was curious as to why she was given the picture and was amazed to discover that her aunt was married to Sir Henry Hawley of Leybourne Grange for forty years. The Hawley daughters were known to Jane and are mentioned in her letters; two of them married into the Bridges family, also close friends of the Austens.

The Rice portrait of Jane Austen

I have also discovered a great deal about Ozias Humphry and his connections to the Tonbridge and Sevenoaks branches of the Austen family - it was a surprise to discover how many links there were between them. Humphry's brother William, vicar at Seal, was well-known to the Austens and Ozias Humphry spent a lot of time there. The evidence is now steadily mounting that he was the artist responsible for the Rice Portrait. 

The other big surprise with this portrait was to discover how fraught the history of it has been. When I began my research I had no idea what a thorny subject the image of Austen has become. I discovered that the case for the dress being dated to after 1800 is very far from being proven and that the National Portrait Gallery have not been as objective as they should have been. Having looked at the evidence in depth I do believe that the Rice Portrait is indeed a portrait of Jane Austen in her teenage years, painted by Ozias Humphry.  I am sure that one day, and hopefully soon, it will be accepted as such. It will not be the National Portrait Gallery's finest hour. 
Paula Byrne's portrait of Jane Austen

The Byrne Portrait is an intriguing newcomer to the story. I researched the Smedley family who were identified by Dr Byrne as being  occupants of the house whose view would have corresponded to the one in the portrait and found many links with Jane Austen. To name just a couple, Rev. Edward Smedley was a friend of Maria Edgeworth and was the curate at the church in Piccadilly which Jane attended when in London. His brother Henry Smedley was a good friend of artist and engraver J T Smith and I believe it was probably Henry Smedley who drew the portrait. Furthermore Edward Smedley always spelled Jane's name as Austin with an "i" - just like the name on the back of the portrait and his handwriting looks remarkably similar. 

The other fascinating information I discovered relates to the provenance of this portrait. It turned up in the possessions of Sir John Galway Foster and he had apparently acquired it from his ex-governess and lifelong friend Helen Carruthers. No-one knew how she came by it. I believe she was given the portrait by Foster's solicitors - Miss Carruthers acted as John Foster's personal secretary while he was abroad  - who were Guy Cholmeley and Philip Frere.  Cholmeley was a descendant of the family of Jane's aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot and Frere was a descendant of a family related by marriage to Edward Smedley's daughter Elizabeth Hart. Two earlier partners in the firm were also brothers-in-law to Catherine Austen, the niece of Colonel Thomas Austen who had given away the Rice Portrait. 

I believe the portrait ended up in the offices of these solicitors until the 1940s when they undertook a modernisation and gave the portrait to Miss Helen Carruthers. 

3. Do you think we have a satisfactory likeness of Jane amongst all the images we have of her, and if you could choose one to take home, which one would that be and why?

We have at least five possible likenesses of Jane Austen - they are the sketch by her sister Cassandra, the Rice Portrait, the Byrne Portrait, the portrait in Rev. James Stanier Clarke's friendship book and the silhouette owned by the National Portrait Gallery which they claim to be Jane Austen. (There is also, of course, the portrait of Jane Austen sitting with her back to us - but I am discounting this because as a possible likeness it is not much help to us!) I am doubtful about the latter two portraits - the Stanier Clarke painting and the silhouette, but the Cassandra sketch, the Rice Portrait and the Byrne Portrait are all, I believe, portraits of Jane Austen drawn from life. 

I love all three portraits - the Cassandra portrait for showing us rebellious Jane, the Rice Portrait for showing us the self-confident, slightly impudent, youthful Jane and the Byrne Portrait for showing us the older, mature Jane, as a poised and established author.  

I would dearly love to own any one of them but if I had to choose one I would take the Rice Portrait of Jane Austen as a young girl, so full of promise and confidence. Her sense of fun shines through in this picture  - I can easily imagine that the characters which would one day enchant us so much are already being formed in her head. It is a beautiful, exuberant portrait. 


4. I believe you're writing a book on the subject - please tell us about it and when it will be published.

I am writing a book about the Austen family and about the five portraits of Jane Austen I have mentioned here, each of which is a fascinating story in its own right. I examine the background and the evidence for each portrait - and some of my findings are surprising. The book investigates the manipulation of Austen's image which accompanied the creation of the myth of "Aunt Jane" and examines some of the less well-known aspects of Austen and her family - a family which was far more worldly and interesting than we are often led to believe. 

I hope to have my book published next year - but I am continually making new discoveries and having to update it! 

If you would like to read more about my research you can find my blog here: http://janeaustenportraits.blogspot.co.uk

Thank you very much for visiting, Ellie! I hope you'll visit Ellie's blog-it really is full of excellent material on the portraits as well as the Austen family and their connections.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again-Editor's Choice and Long Listed for HNS Indie award 2017


I've had some wonderful news about Jane Austen Lives Again - my book has been reviewed, selected as Editor's Choice, and Long Listed for the Historical Novel Society's Indie Award 2017. I couldn't be more thrilled! The review follows below.



This is a thoroughly delightful read. Jane Austen re-awakens in the 1920s, 110 years after her death, and faces the new industrial world with her usual aplomb. Trains and motorised cars, along with shorter skirts, must be accepted.
In reduced circumstances, she has to work as a governess. Noting the changes in environment, manners and appearance, but never succumbing to depression or undue anxiety, Miss Austen deals with the same daily social tasks and complications that her characters did. She has young women to encourage and chasten into suitable romances – while not remaining immune herself.
The author has convincingly captured Jane Austen’s tone and personality. The 1920s come to life in the way that they affected a rural, once rich, family. The characters are true to Austen’s own novels and I am sure, were she defrosted into life for real, she would be amused and pleased to read this novel.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wedding Fashions in the Time of Jane Austen

Wedding Fashions in the time of Jane Austen

I've just been to a lovely spring wedding, and it got me thinking about the wedding fashions of the Georgian and Regency period.


From the 1790s a wedding dress in white became the fashionable garment to wear, taking over from the white and silver dresses that had been worn by wealthy young women. Waistlines rose, sleeves became shorter and lace accessories not so regularly worn, although the bridal veil started to make its appearance at this time. Simple styles worn with less jewellery and diamonds were the order of the day, and lace veils were worn draped over the head for evening wear as well as wedding attire.
1804

The sheerest muslin from India was the most fashionable fabric, but silk, gauzes, fine cottens and linens also formed the basis of a wedding outfit. Machine made net, often embroidered was an alternative.
The actress Elizabeth Farren who married Lord Derby at his house in Grosvenor Square in May, 1797 had thirty muslin dresses for her trousseau. Jane Austen’s cousin, Eliza de Feuillide wrote of the ‘great number of simpletons from the ‘fashionable world’ who had ‘been to see her Wedding Garments which are superlatively magnificent - She has thirty Muslin dresses each more beautiful than the other, and all trimmed with the most expensive Laces. Her Wedding Night Cap is the same as the Princess Royal’s and cost Eighty Guineas - I have no patience with such extravagances, and especially in such a Woman.
1813
A nineteenth century fashion plate published in France in 1813 shows the model in a short-sleeved evening dress of embroidered machine net worn over a white silk under dress. The bride wears elbow-length gloves, a floral head-dress and lace veil. The earliest British plate was published in Ackermann in 1816, and features a dress by Mrs Gill of Cork Street made of striped French gauze over a white satin slip with short puffed sleeves. The hem has a deep flounce of Brussels lace with artificial roses trimming the skirt and bodice. She wears a diadem on her head with roses, though in this case there is no evidence of a veil.
The wedding of Catherine Tylney Long and William Wesley-Pole in March 1812 was reported in the fashion magazine, La Belle Assemblée - the bride’s ‘robe of real Brussels point lace’ was worked in a simple sprig pattern and worn over a white satin petticoat costing 735 pounds, a vast amount of money in those days. The bride also wore a white pelisse trimmed with swansdown and a Brussels lace bonnet decorated with ostrich feathers and a deep lace veil. The groom wore a plain blue coat, white waistcoat, buff breeches and white stockings in contrast.

From 1813 to 1825 wedding dresses looked more like evening dresses with low necks and short sleeves, though for church weddings sleeves were usually longer and a pelisse worn for modesty. The high waistline dropped so that by 1820 the waist resumed its normal position.

1830
By the 1830s trimmings became increasingly elaborate and though headdresses became increasingly elaborate, bonnets were often worn as a popular alternative.

I love this glimpse of Emma's wedding from Emma by Jane Austen - I think we get an insight into what Jane must have thought of some of the wedding fashions: The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. 'Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.' But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

Finally, here are the lovely costumes that Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman wear in Sense and Sensibility - it's interesting to see the film versions of Jane Austen's weddings, but that's another blogpost!




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Lovely Exhibition at the Fan Museum in Greenwich!





Afternoon tea at the Fan Museum
I love a beautiful fan, and they have been the must-have accessory for  young women in the UK since the 1500s. Though not widely used now I think most people with an interest in history of fashion wish they'd make a come-back! 
The Fan Museum at Greenwich is dedicated to the history of fans and craft of fan making, and holds over 5,000 fans and fan leaves with examples from all over the world from the 11th century to the present day. This year the museum is celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary and the museum’s curators have handpicked an array of fans that showcase the extraordinary diversity of the museum’s holdings.

Exhibition highlights include seventeenth century fans painted with mythological subjects, elaborately carved & gilt rococo confections, and twentieth century fans by artists George Barbier and Salvador Dali.
They also do the most wonderful afternoon tea in a beautiful room painted with trompe l'oeil scenes so I would highly recommend making a day of it! 









Amusing motto at the Greenwich Fan Museum
If you can't go to see the exhibition itself, you can search the collection - a wonderful resource for Regency writing or just for drooling over. 

Here's a very potted history of fan making.
Elizabeth 1 holding a feather fan
Queen Mary received seven fans as a New Year’s gift in 1556, and a number of portraits in the 1570s show her sister Queen Elizabeth 1 holding a rigid fan of feathers set in a bejewelled handle - it’s claimed that the fashion for fans and other accessories in Great Britain was born at this time following the tastes of Italy and France. Folding fans followed soon after - the records show that repairs were made on fans ‘with branches of Iverye’ or ‘blackwood’.
The fan industries of Western Europe evolved through the 16th and 17th centuries, before they established their own guild. The charter of the London Guild of Fan Makers was awarded by Queen Anne in 1709 and protective legislation was introduced to curb the import of fans. By 1723 it was claimed that English ivory carving was as good as the Chinese, and that English fans were as good, if not better than the French.
Chinese Brise Ivory fan-1790s
By the end of the 17th century it had become usual for the fan leaf (and often the back too) to be decorated with figures in settings. Most subjects were associated with romantic love, but Biblical and mythological subjects were considered suitable too. As well as painted leaves, print was also used, sometimes hand-coloured after printing. Fans were used widely outdoors and indoors, and the demand was great by the 18th century. Printed fans could be used for political ends, social scandal and other news such as the royal family’s visit to the Royal Academy in 1788. Other printed leaves might show the rules to a card game or show popular destinations on the Grand Tour. By the 1790s printed fan leaves were being issued by silk mercers as well as print publishers.
The role played by jewellers was important - Queen Caroline and Queen Charlotte both owned fans with guards encrusted with jewels.
In this period the royal ladies also enjoyed decorating fans. In 1786 the Princess Royal completed four fans and two muffs for the King’s birthday celebrations and four years later described ‘finishing a 
Princess Frederica
beautiful fan for the Queen, with feathers, flowers, insects and shells …’ The painted leaves would have been made into fans by professional fanmakers, and many were proud of their royal associations.
In 1791 Prince Frederick, Duke of York married Princess Frederica in Berlin, followed by an English ceremony in the Saloon at Buckingham House - now Buckingham Palace. The description of her fan states that the ‘whole is of pierced ivory held together with coquelicot ribbons … the outside sticks, in exception to the ivory are of gold, in the form of a chain closely set with diamonds … The inner sticks of ivory, when open, exhibit an oval medallion of His Royal Highness the Duke of York in relief, a correct likeness and masterly execution … It’s a beautiful fan, part of the royal collection.
In 1797 printed fans were published with the rules of ‘Fanology’, the secret language employed to allow ladies to ‘converse at a distance on any Subject without speaking.’ In the 19th century this was developed into lists of ‘signals’, which could be made by holding a fan in different ways. A fan held in the left hand in front of the face meant ‘I’d like to get to know you’, a fan drawn across the cheek declared, ‘I love you’, a half-opened fan pressed to the lips meant ‘You may kiss me’, whilst one drawn through the hand meant ‘I hate you’.
An example of a cockade fan
Ivory fans from China were prized for their skilled carving, and the best were paper thin. Cockade fans, which open to a 360 degree circle were first recorded in medieval times and were still popular in the 19th century. This type of fan was ordered from England and were often worked on from designs sent over to the customer’s preference.
With the hardships during the Napoleonic Wars, fan production dwindled in the early 19th century. As communication improved quantities of high quality fans were imported from Paris once more, despite the efforts of the guild.

In Northanger Abbey Jane Austen uses the fan as a way for Catherine Morland to avoid having to dance with John Thorpe - in the hopes she will soon see Mr Tilney!

The others walked away, John Thorpe was still in view, and she gave herself up for lost. That she might not appear, however, to observe or expect him, she kept her eyes intently fixed on her fan; and a self–condemnation for her folly, in supposing that among such a crowd they should even meet with the Tilneys in any reasonable time, had just passed through her mind, when she suddenly found herself addressed and again solicited to dance, by Mr. Tilney himself. With what sparkling eyes and ready motion she granted his request, and with how pleasing a flutter of heart she went with him to the set, may be easily imagined. To escape, and, as she believed, so narrowly escape John Thorpe, and to be asked, so immediately on his joining her, asked by Mr. Tilney, as if he had sought her on purpose! — it did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity.








I have several beautiful books on fans - 
The Fan Museum by Helene Alexander
Unfolding Pictures - Fans in the Royal Collection by Jane Roberts, Prudence Sutcliffe and Susan Mayor
Advertising Fans by Helene Alexander
Presenting a Cooling Image by Helene Alexander and Russell Harris 

Jane Odiwe
Mother of Pearl fan - 1830s

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Review from Laura Boyle for the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine

I'm absolutely thrilled with this wonderful review from Laura Boyle for Jane Austen Lives again - thank you, Laura!

Imagine a world where Jane Austen and her favorite characters exist in a Downton Abbey atmosphere—Impossible, you say, and yet, apart from the passage of years, they are all gentlemen and gentlemen’s daughters, as Elizabeth Bennet so succinctly puts it. In Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, our favorite author does not die at 42 in Winchester, but is kept, somehow in stasis, until Dr. Lyford can not only cure her last lingering illness, but revive her again in the prime of her life. The scientific details are not spelled out, and honestly, it doesn’t matter, as Ms. Odiwe’s book will captivate you from the first. Finally we are able to see Jane “live again” sans vampires and magic, and enjoy her introduction to modern life in the 1920’s.
Ms. Odiwe is unabashedly nostalgic about paying tribute to her favorite novels and stories of the period, from Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle, to Downton Abbey, all the while painting a lovely, if complicated plot involving recognizable characters from Austen’s own novels. A “novel” concept, indeed!
The story begins with Jane awaking in a new century, shortly after the close of the Great War, her recovery is glossed over, but her shock at having become a “famous” novelist is of course delightful. Unfortunately, the copyrights have expired and who would believe the truth, anyway. She is forced to take a position as companion to five young ladies living at Manberley Castle (shades of Rebecca, anyone?) a rather decrepit country estate in Devon. Her surprise at finding grown women rather than the children she was expecting is soon overcome by her realization that the entire family could use some help in realizing their full potential. In true Flora Poste style, she sets out, with just the right nudge here and opportune word there, to bring the family into some semblance of decorum.
Populating the castle, are Lord and Lady Milton, Lord Milton’s oldest children, Alice (a winning combination of Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot), Will (could there be any doubt?) and Mae (the personification of Marianne Dashwood with just a hint of Lousia Musgrove) along with three more daughters from his second marriage, Beth (Elizabeth Bennet), Emily (Emma Woodhouse) and Cora (Jane Bennet). The rest of the neighborhood is peopled with various other characters recognizable from Jane Austen’s novels while the downstairs staff has a distinct propensity towards Downton.
Throughout the novel, Jane takes her young charges in hand managing their personal trials and love lives with an author’s deftness, all the while failing to take into consideration the love story happening in her own life. Her own difficulties in finding her place in this brave new world, in making room for her writing and in giving her heart a second chance can only be all-absorbing to the reader with the same literary taste as Ms. Odiwe.
Throughout the novel you will find delightful surprises and references to Austen’s works as well as the others listed. Julius’ home, Salcombe Magna is just such a one and gives a glimpse of who he is and what is in store for Mae (but is he truly as wicked as Willoughby, or only a selfish Frank Churchill?) So many characters are given facets of others that it will keep you guessing to the very end—and who could ever complain about a novel with two Mr. Darcys!
Fleshing out the novel are delightful descriptions of castle life, walks about the countryside, trips to the seaside and even a climactic scene in a London nightclub, so reminiscent of Lady Rose MacClare’s Jazz club adventures in Downton Abbey. In fact, the pervasive popularity of that show is a wonderful thing for the reader trying to picture just how life might have played out, upstairs and down, and how the vividly detailed gowns and ensembles would have looked. Jane is, as she ever was, pleased to be looking fashionable once again. A treat to the imaginative reader, the novel also provides ample scenes from Austen’s previous life, introducing her family to us as well as providing a plausible backstory for her turquoise “engagement” ring. Later rings feature towards the end of the book, including a suspiciously familiar sapphire and diamond (could any proposal be more perfect?)

All in all, Jane Austen Lives Again will be a treasured addition to any sequels library. The winning combination of old and new will have you guessing to the very end just what is in store for our heroines (of which there are many). The final scene, in the hall, decorating the Christmas tree strikes just the right note of closure, though one could wish the book to go on forever—would a sequel even be possible? I, for one, certainly think so, and would be glad to spend more hours in such amiable company. Kudos again to Ms. Odiwe for continually testing her creative limits, bringing Jane Austen to life (again) in such a fresh and imaginative way.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Announcing the winner of Janet Todd's novel, A Man of Genius!


Mr Darcy called this morning and drew the winner's name out of the hat. He's just taking a cup of tea now, and sends his congratulations to:-

ADALGISA SD

Congratulations, Adalgisa - I hope you enjoy A Man of Genius!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Guest Post and Giveaway! Janet Todd, author of A Man of Genius

I'm so thrilled and honoured to have Janet Todd on the blog today to delight us with an excerpt from her new novel, A Man of Genius. I've long been an admirer of Janet's non-fiction books on Jane Austen, though she's also known for her feminist works on Mary Wollstonecraft and Aphra Benn. 
Janet is very kindly giving away a copy of her new book A Man of Genius, which has been described by Sarah Dunant as 'A quirky, darkly mischievous novel about love, obsession and the burden of charisma, played out against the backdrop of Venice's watery, decadent glory', and by Philippa Gregory as 'Strange and haunting, a gothic novel with a modern consciousness.' 
All you have to do to for a chance to win is answer the question, "Would you rather meet Jane Austen or Lord Byron?" 

Please leave your answer in a comment at the bottom of the post. The book is very generously being offered internationally, and the competition will be open for a week. The winner's name will be drawn from the hat on Wednesday 16th March and announced on the blog.

Here's a little blurb to whet your appetite, and I'm sure you'll love the excerpt that follows! You all know how I love descriptive writing, and in the scene below the passage conjures up sparkling visions of Venice that are exquisitely drawn.  
  
Ann, a successful writer of cheap Gothic novels, becomes obsessed with Robert James, regarded by many, including himself, as a genius, with his ideas, his talk, and his band of male followers. However, their relationship becomes tortuous, as Robert descends into violence and madness. 
The pair leaves London for occupied Venice, where Ann tries to cope with the monstrous ego of her lover. Forced to flee with a stranger, she delves into her past, to be jolted by a series of revelations--about her lover, her parentage, the stranger, and herself.



FROM CHAPTER 14
She’d come to the Palazzo Savelli without Giancarlo Scrittori: he
had some business to do, he said, but she suspected he wanted her
to go alone. He wished both sides to be impressed
The palazzo didn’t disappoint. It was full of glass, the chandeliers
intricate, elaborate Murano, mainly white with touches of pink in the
mantels. They hung, huge fossilised sea anemones from a waving sea
of dark wood rafters. On the wall were ornate mirrors in panes, some
flecked with rust spots, all distorting, exaggerating or decanting the
scenes before them. It was hard for Ann to know where she was.
Impossible not to see oneself in different postures: made now picturesque,
now grotesque, always obscure.
Her ungloved hands had coarsened from too much washing in
cold water, but here in these tarnished mirrors the roughest hands
were smooth and indistinct. Ann was not displeased to look down at
hers when she’d removed her gloves.
She’d been shown in by a diminutive manservant, followed at once
by the old woman they’d seen before – well, not so old, she now
noted, someone very unlike her mother with her rouge and false hair.
This woman had embraced ageing in her black garb, voice and stance.
She was helped by an absence of all front teeth.
Then a footman, slightly shabby despite magnificent powdered
wig setting off his brown face, ushered her up a wide flight of marble
stairs with walls of fading frescoes. He left her in a large gloomy room
after muttering what she supposed was a version of her name in too
many syllables. Heavy curtains shaded the windows; the paintings in
their ornate gilt frames were hardly visible in the dim light, darkened
further by poor placing and layers of dust.
A woman in shades of elaborate black was seated on a sofa of
faded crimson velvet embroidered in dark silk swirls. Her face was
pale and lined, framed by black lace.
Not unkind but not prepossessing, a little haughty.
‘I am the Contessa Savelli,’ she said in heavily accented English.
‘You are Signora Jamis. Please to sit. I speak not much English.’
Ann sat on a lower facing chair upholstered in the same faded
velvet. A young twinkling voice interrupted the silence. ‘Signora, we
are most content you are here.’
It was the girl she and Giancarlo Scrittori had met the last time
they visited the house. Now she was ready for courtesies. Again, as
with Signor Scrittori, no mention was made of the first strange
meeting.
‘Signorina,’ she replied. ‘I too am content.’
There followed more Italian pleasantries, which Ann was unsure
how to answer, the girl speaking in her light musical way, the mother
in lower tones from a smiling mouth beneath remote eyes.
Then the Contessa left the room. Ann rose as she went. She
glanced at a ceiling fresco of pink and white cherubs displaying undulating
stains on plump flesh.
‘Let us go to another smaller place. There is good light,’ said the
girl. ‘We will sit near a window. There you hear the sound of water.’
‘I would like, Signorina, to do exactly what you have in mind. We
have an hour for conversing or reading, what you will.’
‘Beatrice, please.’ The voice fell like a warm spray over them both.
‘And I am Ann S–’ She stopped, realising she’d almost used her
maiden name. How absurd.
Frederick Curran said it was always best to be more than one
person. She presumed he meant on paper.
‘But that is not so correct,’ laughed Beatrice. ‘You are the
Signora.’
‘Yes, I suppose so. I am old.’
‘Not old Signora, no, just older than I am and you are married and
will teach.’

The girl was all sunshine, all smiles and shifting music. It was
impossible not to respond.
So they chatted and nodded and chuckled and Beatrice wrote down
phrases in a small notebook exquisitely covered in an intricate
geometric pattern of muted red and cream. The hour passed in a flash.
At moments the wintry sunlight on the canal beneath was reflected
through the arched window on to the carved ceiling and from there
to a tarnished mirror: then all was moving, dazzling on the patched
and shredded green damask walls.
‘You make more of the sunlight
here,’ said Ann.
‘Possibly,’ replied Beatrice.
When at the end of the session the Contessa, with her mingling
of stateliness, anxiety and polite hospitality, came in to check that
everything had proceeded well, she must have seen the success of the
lesson. Perhaps she was glad the new teacher had amused her
daughter, who, Ann knew now, was quick and might become easily
bored.

She’d passed some test. The Contessa would be honoured if she
and her husband – a famous English author, she understood – would
attend for a social evening. Not in the next weeks, for the Marchese
would be in town and would want her company. The Contessa gave
a smile both proud and deprecating. ‘And my son, you will have
chance to meet the Conte if he will be seen.’
An odd phrase, perhaps it came from inadequate English. It
chimed with Beatrice’s mention of this young man who was and was
not in residence. Ann supposed he lived elsewhere for part of the time.
She saw that the girl gave her mother a quick glance as she spoke of
him. There might be sibling jealousy.

She hoped no invitation would ever come, that its suggestion was just

polite formality.
Thank you so much for joining me on the blog today, Janet, and for sharing such an intriguing excerpt.

Readers, please don't forget to check back on the 16th to find out if you are the lucky winner. In the meantime, if you'd like to hear (and see) the wonderful actress Miriam Margolyes reading an excerpt from the audiobook, you can watch it here.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again- A new review from Austenesque Reviews!

I'm utterly thrilled with this new review for Jane Austen Lives Again from Meredith Esparza of Austenesque Reviews.

Jane Austen is Alive in 1925!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
While suffering greatly from the disease that would take her life, Jane Austen learns that her doctor, Dr. Lyford, is conducting some pioneer studies on immortal jellyfish and transdifferentiation. In a secret attempt to cheat death, Jane and Cassandra consult with Dr. Lyford about using his knowledge to cure Jane Austen’s illness or possibly extend her life a little. The study unfortunately took a bit longer than expected, and several generations later in the year 1925, Jane Austen is finally able to resume life among the living! (Our dream come true, right?)
In order to support herself, Jane Austen takes a position as a governess to five young girls in a crumbling estate in Devon. The only thing is, this isn’t a typical governess position, and Jane Austen’s young charges are a good deal older than expected. But our dear Jane is made of stern stuff and has courage that rises with every attempt of intimidation. Jane takes on the discordant and troubled Milton family and tries to be the friend, supporter, and guide they all need. With such a large task on her hands, Jane is fearful her time to write more novels may be in short supply. But that may be the least of her worries as an unexpected suitor comes onto the scene and tries to win her heart…
Oh my! What a sensational and supremely original story! Jane Odiwe, who we’ve seen play with time-slipping and magical phenomena before, has taken her creativity to a new level with this brilliant original tale about Jane Austen as a governess and alive in the 1920s. Not only do readers have the special treat of seeing dear Jane as a main character, but the young people in this story all bear some resemblance to characters from Jane Austen’s novels. While none of them share the same name or exactly the same personality and situations, it is quite a diversion for the reader to spot characters who remind them of Colonel Brandon, Anne Elliot, Mr. Knightley, and Elizabeth Bennet. Some characters are pretty easy to figure out, but others, especially those who might be a mix of two characters, took some time and pondering. It was quite a lovely to see so many Jane Austen personalities in one setting!
I can’t really pinpoint what I loved most about the story, because I loved it all! I loved the large cast of characters and seeing their interactions, I loved seeing Jane Austen adapt to a new time period, way of life, and job, and I loved observing how through her little ideas and nudges Jane made the lives better of all those around her. I felt that this was just like her. That it would be her way to be so instrumental and have such an impact on all those around her.
In addition, I thought Jane Odiwe executed this clever and complex premise masterfully. With so many characters to juggle, crisscrossing storylines, and the scientific breakthrough of immortal life, this story could have felt a little fantastical and overwhelming. I commend Ms. Odiwe for taking all these elements and skillfully finding a way to make them come together so harmoniously. Readers who are familiar with this author’s previous works, will know that she writes with a very artistic eye and her novels usually include lush descriptions and vibrant details. So many scenes in this book effortlessly popped into my mind – the dresses, the estates, the dances – all in vivid color and detail. Such visually stimulating prose!

With Jane Austen being alive in the 1920’s and earning her keep as a governess, Jane Austen Lives Again sometimes felt like Downton Abbey meets Mary Poppins/Sound of Music (which are some of my favorite things!). It was a wonderful blend of history, fiction, and fairy tale! Absorbing, ingenious, and immensely satisfying – you definitely don’t want to miss Jane Austen Lives Again!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again Paperback Winners!




Thank you to everyone who left lovely comments about the book trailer videos. My husband picked the names out of his straw hat, and the winners are:

Julia Bookreader and Lynn Bischoff - Congratulations!

Could you please contact me here with your address details so I can send off your books. I do hope you enjoy them!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Reviews for Jane Austen Lives Again and a Giveaway!

Jane Austen Lives Again
I'm absolutely thrilled with the fabulous reviews I'm getting for Jane Austen Lives Again - I'd like to thank Serena Agusto-Cox from Savvy, Verse and Wit, and Katie Patchell writing for Austenprose, for taking the time to review my book. Thank you also to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for selecting Jane Austen Lives Again for Best Austenesque Paranormal/Fantasy Novel 2015

In celebration, I have two paperback copies to give away! Please leave a comment below, telling me which video book trailer you like best of the two at the end of this post - closing date for entering will be a week from today - February 10th and the winner announced shortly after.

From the desk of Serena Augusto-Cox

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, included rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.
“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”
Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.
Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  EmmaSense & SensibilityPride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

From the desk of Katie Patchell:
What would Jane Austen say and do if she lived in the 1920s instead of the late 1700s/early 1800s? Would she wear a drop-waist dress that showed her ankles and bob her auburn hair? Would she dance the Charleston or listen to Jazz music? How would she react to being called ‘baby doll’? And would being handed into the front seat of a car by a young, eligible man just as romantic as being handed into a Regency carriage? These fascinating questions and more are imaginatively answered in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, where readers—and Jane Austen herself—are transported to the chaotic, electrifying Jazz Age.
1817: After days of sickness, Jane Austen closes her eyes on this world for the last time. Or so she thinks. When she opens them again—to her, only a few moments later—her doctor informs her that he found the secret to immortal life, and the year is…
1925: Post re-birth and after months reading modern newspapers, watching Hollywood films, and listening to Jazz music, Jane convinces Dr. Lyford that it’s time she takes her first steps to becoming an independent woman of the 20th century. A post as a governess for the five young daughters of Lord and Lady Milton seems just the thing.
I’ve never felt better. I feel as if I am about to start a new adventure, even if the thought of five little girls is a disquieting one. More than anything, I will have the time to write all the novels I thought were to be denied to me, and I will endure anything to that end.” (Chapter 1, Location 104)
On her arrival at the beautiful but crumbling Manberley Castle, Jane discovers that the adventure that awaits her is of an entirely different sort. Rather than having to take care of five young children, she’s been given the time-consuming and hectic job of being a governess to five young adult women, some a few years older than her (seemingly) 21 year old self!
But Jane has always loved a challenge, whatever the century. She soon gets swept up in the daily life of a quirky bohemian family and the romantic entanglements of five heroines—not to mention the attentions of William Milton, their irrepressibly charming, teasing, and oh-so-frustrating elder brother. Can Jane give her not-so-young charges the happy endings they deserve, even if they can’t see it themselves? Will she ever be able to find the time to pick up her pen (or typewriter) to write again? And in the midst of the Milton chaos and “modern” 1920s world, will she find love and happiness in her second chance at life?
Two major things were done in Jane Austen Lives Again that made it marvelous: Jane as the novel’s protagonist, and character similarities with Austen’s originals. Because of her supernatural awakening a century after Jane’s supposed death, she is given the chance to be the heroine of her own story. While I’ve loved other books starring Jane Austen that are set in her own time (such as Carolyn V. Murray’s beautiful 2015 debut, Jane by the Sea), getting the chance to see Jane in a different time period was a rare treat—especially in 1920s Devon, England. Transplanting her—the inimitable, fearless, sparkling Jane Austen we all know and love—to a different setting was a genius move. Odiwe skillfully kept Jane’s personality (and history through moments of back story) but enabled her to grow as a heroine.
At the same time, Jane Austen Lives Again is also a reimagining of most of the main love stories in Jane Austen’s novels. The five Milton women were reimaginings of Anne Elliot, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, and Jane Bennet. While these main characters followed their original plotlines closely, sometimes they (and the men I thought they’d end up with) varied from their original characters or merged with others (such as the “Frank Churchill” character combining with “Willoughby”). This was handled with ease on Odiwe’s part, and kept me guessing—and highlighting my Kindle copy because of new character insights—until the final pages.
In its humor, family shenanigans, and determined heroine, Jane Austen Lives Again is reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm, a hilarious, dazzling classic by Stella Gibbons. Yet at the same time, it stays true to Jane Austen and her novels in spirit—and still more, manages to stand apart from these as a unique novel of love, family, and laughter.
With a remarkable setting and gorgeous descriptions, memorable characters and a message of happy endings and new beginnings, Jane Austen Lives Again is a perfect read for Christmas and New Year’s.
5 out of 5 Stars