Searching for Mr Tilney
Searching for Mr. Tilney is a compelling combination of a retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and a time travel novel. In 1975, fashion design student Caroline Heath goes to Bath to recover from an illness. She stays in a Georgian house that had once belonged to relatives of Jane Austen. Soon she meets Harry Tate, a young man who bears a close resemblance to Henry Tilney, hero of Northanger Abbey, Caroline’s favorite novel. She believes she might have found the man of her dreams, but complications ensue. Caroline discovers the teenage diary of Jane Austen and is increasingly drawn to it. Eventually she finds herself inhabiting the body of Jane’s sister, Cassandra. Caroline, both in her experiences as Cassandra Austen and back in her own time, reading Jane’s diary, learns of the Austen sisters’ lives in 1788-89, while they stay with their relatives in Kent and, later, in Bath. Cassandra falls in love with Tom Fowle, a penniless clergyman, but her mother wishes her to marry her wealthy cousin Lucius. Meanwhile, Jane feels the first stirrings of love for Lucius’s younger brother Thomas.
Jane Odiwe’s love for Austen shines through on every page. The novel is a treat for Austen fans, especially lovers of Northanger Abbey, as Caroline’s romance with Harry parallels that of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, complete with a spooky old castle. The reader learns details about Jane Austen’s early life that are not widely known, and Odiwe makes a strong argument that the so-called Rice Portrait of Jane Austen actually does represent the teenage Austen. In the diary, we learn how the portrait came to be painted, and Odiwe speculates on what happened to it later on. Odiwe keeps you turning the pages, both in Caroline’s story and in that of the Austen sisters. Historical Novel Society
Jane Austen Lives Again - Reviews
Review- Historical Novel Society
A review from Laura Boyle - Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine reviews
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.
A review from Joceline Bury at Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine
Travelling to Devonshire aboard a steam train, Jane Austen remarks to her companion and physician: ‘Dr Lyford, if I can survive embalming, the subsequent resurrection and the effects of transdifferentiation, I will live to tell the tale …’
So begins Jane Odiwe’s ‘fairy story for grown-ups’, in which Austen is brought back from the dead - scientifically, rather than miraculously - and transported to the west of England in 1925. Penniless (her royalties don’t go far in the Jazz Age) and - naturally - alone, she takes the traditional route for single women of no fortune and becomes governess to a clutch of sparky girls in a romantically crumbling castle by the sea.
She finds the bohemian Milton family quite enchanting, and is sure that she can bring some old-fashioned order to their somewhat chaotic existence - but to her initial dismay finds herself falling for the dark-eyed, curly-haired, and handsome son of the house. What follows is pure romance, but with the twists of humour and intrigue that Odiwe’s readers have come to expect. This is such an enjoyable tale - Odiwe handles the 1920s setting with the same assurance that she has brought to her Regency-set novels, and her rendering of a 20th century Jane is a delight.
A 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!
Meredith Esparza - Austenesque Reviews
|Jane Austen Lives Again|
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.