- About Jane Odiwe
- Jane Austen Lives Again
- Jane Austen Lives Again Reviews
- Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar
- Mrs Darcy's Diamonds
- Project Darcy
- Project Darcy - Reviews
- Searching for Captain Wentworth
- Searching for Captain Wentworth - Reviews
- Mr Darcy's Secret - Reviews
- Willoughby's Return - Reviews
- Lydia Bennet's Story - Reviews
- Audio Excerpts from Searching for Captain Wentworth
- The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Thursday, April 28, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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
|Afternoon tea at the Fan Museum|
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!
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
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|
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.
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
|Mother of Pearl fan - 1830s|
Saturday, April 2, 2016
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
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:-
Congratulations, Adalgisa - I hope you enjoy A Man of Genius!
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
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
‘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
‘Yes, I suppose so. I am old.’
‘Not old Signora, no, just older than I am and you are married and
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
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
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
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
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
|Jane Austen Lives Again|
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. Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & 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:
Monday, December 21, 2015
My 2016 novel, Jane Austen Lives Again was such fun to write and I hope you enjoyed the first three chapters posted here - Prologue and Chapter One Chapter Two and Chapter Three. Published online for the first time is Chapter Four below - I hope you enjoy it. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you joy and send lots of love across the miles!
Jane Odiwe December 2016
When Jane woke the next morning she was delighted to see a remarkable change in the weather. Sunlight poured through the long windows leaving golden lozenges in bright bars across the carpet and over her bed. She stretched, arms overhead, feeling quite deliciously happy for a moment as she luxuriated in the warmth and sense of wellbeing, having slept well despite the lumpy mattress. Leaping out of bed she went to stand at the window, and fiddling with the catch on the last pane at the end where the glass had been divided to make it into a casement, she flung it wide open. The smell of the sea and the sound of gulls mewing up above could do nothing but fill her with a sense of pleasure, making her instantly remember holidays spent in Lyme and Sidmouth in another place and time.
Leaning on the sill she could see the blue expanse of sea and sky, across to the valley and the village on the other side, glittering after the rain, and down to the steaming garden below. Breathing in lungfuls of air, she’d never felt so alive. The memories of her last illness were so fresh that every morning since she’d been brought back she was filled with such a sense of hope and elation as she felt the blood coursing through her veins by a beating heart that felt stronger than she’d ever known.
Down in the garden she could see a twisting path following the line of a stretch of water at the bottom of the tower, and she watched a white swan fly in to land, spraying foam in an arc upon the moat, thick with water lily pads. She was watching the bird preening with a golden beak when along the path she caught sight of Alice and Mae emerging between the rose bushes whose blooms drooped like crushed tissue after the rain. Dressed for the day, Jane noticed the absolute contrast in their styles, Alice in a gown of white lawn flowing down to her ankles, Mae in a pair of trousers with a loose blouse tucked into the waistline. Though still an unusual sight, Jane had seen women occasionally wearing trousers, and thought how comfortable they looked. Mae’s were wide-legged, looking very masculine, and she wondered if they’d been altered from a pair of her brother’s. Jane could just imagine the sort of rows that would ensue when Lady Milton clapped eyes on Mae’s outfit, and she’d bet money on the fact that her stepmother would find fault with her appearance.
Alice and Mae were deep in conversation, their heads bowed, and though she couldn’t hear all that they were saying, odd words, and snatches of conversation drifted up to her on the summer breeze.
‘Will thought you should know … you mustn’t be upset … with luck you may avoid him,’ Mae said.
‘I do not know why Will should say … I’ve long given over thinking of … I would happily see him, what have I to fear?’ Alice answered.
‘I think Will might be relieved to hear that … they were always such friends.’
‘And if I make it easy for everyone, you’ll still be able to meet … I’ve no wish for awkward scenes, Mae … you coming down to the village later?’
‘No … not be told what to do.’
‘I wish you would … not Miss Austen’s fault …’
They rounded the curve of the path and Jane could hear no more. There was a little mystery about someone Mae thought Alice might not want to see, and it looked as if there’d be another day of scenes between Mae and Lady Milton. Jane felt a little uncomfortable at having eavesdropped, but really it was very difficult not to hear those intriguing snatches of conversation. Wondering whether she’d come to learn what it was all about, she left the window on the latch to allow the warm air to circulate, and hearing the clock striking eight, decided she’d better hurry and get herself dressed for breakfast, though after last night’s meal she wasn’t expecting much culinary excitement. There didn’t seem to be any sign of hot water left outside her room so she filled the jug with cold from the basin in the bathroom for a wash, and set about getting ready for the day.
Jane hurried along the corridors and passages, down one staircase after another. She saw one or two maids bearing breakfast trays groaning with teapots, silver food domes and racks of toast, which made her wonder whether many of Manberley’s residents would be joining her in the dining room. It was empty when she walked in, but there were several covered serving dishes on the side, which rather surprisingly held a vast variety of breakfast treats, until Jane reasoned that the Miltons probably farmed the land, and would keep pigs and hens. Jane helped herself to sausage and bacon, scrambled egg and fried bread, thinking that it might be an idea to stock up on food if dinner was to be another poor affair.
She was just enjoying her solitude when the door opened, which made her start a little, especially when she saw who was walking in. It was the driver who’d picked her up from the station, looking as if breakfasting in the dining room at this hour was a regular habit. He mumbled something, which Jane thought might have been “good morning”, before coolly helping himself from the side. With his plate heaped high, he sat down on the chair opposite her, and spent the next ten minutes without another word, eating his way through a mountain of food in silence. Jane couldn’t help thinking his presence was most unusual, even taking into account how times had changed. In her day servants ate in the kitchen, and though she’d been surprised to discover that she was invited to eat with the family, she decided the Miltons must be most unconventional to allow the chauffeur the same honour.
It felt very uncomfortable sitting there without any attempt at conversation. Jane observed her companion who was now unfurling a newspaper from his pocket, and spreading it open on the table, with hardly a pause from the movement of his fork from food to mouth. He was very well dressed in a suit of country tweed, no uniform today, and she couldn’t help noticing how well the greenish flecks in the tawny cloth complimented his tanned skin. He was broad-shouldered, yet she detected a slim torso beneath the waistcoat he wore, and with long limbs and strong, capable-looking hands he could be described as a very good-looking young man. Dark, unruly curls had been fixed as well as they could into place with a neat parting and brilliantine, but those at the nape of his neck where they met the collar of his shirt refused to be tamed.
He must have been aware she was staring because he suddenly looked up which made her jump a little out of her seat. She saw a wide mouth curving into a generous smile at her obvious discomfort, and a flash of white even teeth.
‘Not run away yet, Miss Austen?’
His accent had a faint trace of something she couldn’t make out, but it was a friendly voice, and she couldn’t help smiling too.
‘No, not yet, Mr … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.’
‘It’s Will Milton.’ There was a pause during which his eyes connected with hers. ‘Just call me Will … everybody does.’
Jane felt the blood pound in her temples, and knew her face was flooding with crimson. Will Milton? A hundred thoughts flashed through her mind, as she wondered if she could have done or said anything yesterday that she should now regret. He was no ordinary chauffeur she realised in that moment, but the son and heir to Manberley castle. Of course she had been a little snooty, telling him off for discussing her employers, but he’d been obviously playing a trick on her and that was hardly her fault. Besides, he’d had the nerve to drop her at the servant’s door when she knew he should have treated her as a lady and escorted her through the front entrance. Jane thought she detected amused arrogance in the curling of his mouth as he continued to read. She went from embarrassment and shame to downright livid indignation in the time it took for Will to close his paper.
‘Do you always dress up as the chauffeur and pretend to be someone you’re not?’ she said crossly, unable to stop the thoughts coming out of her mouth.
Will seemed to find this funny, and threw back his head to laugh out loud. ‘I don’t have to do it very often, pick people up from the station, I mean, but I thought it might put you at your ease, and I hoped to learn a bit more about you and what you were thinking about coming to work here. We don’t have a driver any more, and on the few occasions I’ve taken on the job, I must admit it’s always fun to listen to the conversations of incoming guests. I’ve learned a lot, and then the moment of realisation is always worth the wait … and such a hoot.’
‘I’m glad you think it’s so funny,’ said Jane, already deciding that she’d never met anyone more unprincipled. Above all things she disliked this sort of trickery, having fun at others’ expense. These Miltons were an odd lot, and she’d best keep her wits if she were to keep her sanity.
‘I didn’t mean to upset you,’ he said and she caught that drawl in his voice again. His eyes were pleading with her but she would not be drawn into the depths of those dark brown eyes. ‘Please forgive me, Miss Austen, I would hate to disappoint my new governess.’
He was making fun of her again. ‘I am not your governess. Your stepmother has made it quite clear to me that you’re a law unto yourself. I am here merely to advise Lady Milton and help with the girls.’
‘I expect she’s told you I’m a wicked stepson,’ he said, his eyes twinkling with amusement, ‘with no morals and a string of women in the village.’
‘Lady Milton has said no such thing, and even if she had I would not repeat it.’
That made him laugh again, and Jane couldn’t help wondering, as she stared at him, whether there was some truth in what he’d said. She saw that arrogance again, and imagined the confident heir to Manberley leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him amongst all the young women of Stoke Pomeroy. Well, he wouldn’t be charming her with his good looks and fine eyes, she decided, not that he’d be interested in anything about her except as a vehicle for his jokes and what he imagined was wit. Jane thought it wouldn’t take her long to put him in his place now she knew what he was like, and looked forward to having the opportunity again sometime.
‘I wonder if I could ask something of you, Miss Austen.’
‘Well, you could try,’ she answered rather stiffly, knowing she wasn’t being very friendly.
‘Could you keep an especial eye on my sisters? Alice is a sweet girl, and she’s been through so much, always taking it upon herself to try and fill the place of the mother we lost. I don’t want to go into detail, but something imminent might just throw her off course a little. She’s been bruised in the past, and though I shall do all to protect her against further hurt, it would be so nice to know someone else was looking out for her. And Mae is lovely too, when you get to know her. Alice told me her behaviour last night left a lot to be desired, and that she’s been rude within your hearing. We talk to her all the time, but we’re at a loss to know what to do for the best.’
‘Of course, I shall do all I can to help,’ said Jane in a warmer tone, slightly revising her thoughts about him. At least he seemed to care about his sisters. ‘Please don’t worry too much, Alice is such a kind young woman, and I’m sure Mae just needs time, Mr Milton.’
‘I knew the moment I set eyes on you that you’d be good for Manberley, Miss Austen, thank you for taking us all on. I’m glad you’re not about to run away, but if you ever consider it, will you discuss it with me first?’
Now it was Jane’s turn to laugh. ‘Mr Milton, I hope that will not be the case just yet, but I’d also hate you to think I will have a solution for every problem. I am ill qualified as a counsellor though I’ve had a little experience with young people in my own family. It will be as much trial and error for me too.’
‘No, I won’t have that. You’ve made a difference already … even Mrs Naseby has a good word for you, which is saying a lot. You may be young and inexperienced, but you’re a breath of fresh air, and that’s what we all need.’
Jane didn’t say a word; she could hardly contradict him. But she felt young, even if her mind still held onto the past of an aging woman. She watched Will dab at his mouth with a napkin before he stood up, pushing the chair behind him.
‘I hope I’ll see you later, at dinner.’
‘Yes, Mr Milton.’
‘Will,’ he said with a knowing wink. ‘Please call me Will, everybody does.’
Mae didn’t want to hang around being told what she could or couldn’t do on such a glorious day. She’d already decided to go out on her bicycle, and take a little picnic down to the beach. Mrs Wickens, the cook had made her a packed lunch and even though she knew it was fish paste sandwiches and a flask of tea, it would be better than enduring an insufferable afternoon at the tea shop in the village with her sisters and that new governess who was so prim and proper.
She went down to the old stables where the stalls had once been full of horses. Now there were only two left, her brother Will’s chestnut thoroughbred, Achilles, and a pony, Valentino, which all the girls were meant to share. Valentino whinnied when he saw her, and reaching inside her trouser pocket she fetched out a sugar lump for him. Leaning her head against his noble one as he munched, his velvet nose sniffing for more, she felt the warmth of him melt her heart.
‘No one understands me like you do,’ she said, draping her arms round his neck. ‘But I’m sorry, my darling, I can’t take you with me today, I shall be gone for too long, though I promise we’ll ride along the sands tomorrow.’
Mae kissed his neck, and stroked his mane, as he nuzzled her fingers in hopes of another sugar lump. She fed him one more, and went in search of her bicycle. Propped up in the last stall, she put her packet of sandwiches and thermos flask into the basket at the front, and backed it out. Will’s motorcycle gleamed in the next stall. It was a beautiful object, an Indian scout he’d bought in America a few years ago when he’d been to stay with their Uncle Harry who’d treated him to the exotic machine and even shipped it home for him. Uncle Harry, their mother’s brother was a very wealthy man who divided his time between his brownstone in New York City and his summer mansion at Newport, Rhode Island. He had sons of his own, but the hope was that Will might still come into some of Uncle Harry’s money. Mae knew that her mother had come from a prestigious family, but she’d never met any of them though she was intrigued by the idea of her exotic American relations. They hadn’t wanted Edith to marry her father who they’d considered a pauper compared to the families with whom they associated, and when she eloped with him to England, they’d cut off all ties. It was only after her mother’s death that Uncle Harry had expressed a wish to meet Will, and though the visit had been a success, lasting two years, in all that time he’d never asked to meet the girls.
Mae wished she could try out the motorcycle. When it was running, it was like a beast. Will had let her try it once and she’d loved the purr of the engine and the feeling of power. Resting the bicycle against a post she wandered over to admire the sleek lines and the scarlet paint. She’d watched Will start it up many times, and wondered if she could do it herself. Leaning over, she turned on the gas, as Will called it, pulled on the choke, adjusted the advance and the throttle, and then leaning her full weight on the handlebars tried to kick-start the cycle. It took three attempts before it sputtered into life, and then, as the engine ticked over, Mae thought it would do no harm just to try it out for size. Remembering to kick her leg high she eased into the saddle, and the moment that was done, the most daring thought entered her head.