Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lovers’ Perjuries by Joan Ellen Delman

As I may have mentioned once or twice (all the frickin’ time) I rather adore the work of Jane Austen.  I can perfectly understand that I am a bit of an old biddy and that some people might not share my love of it, though I do reserve the right to rant in an uncontrollable rage if someone accuses her work of being ‘chick lit’.

My favourite is Persuasion.  My least favourite (though I still enjoyed it) is poor, much-maligned Mansfield Park.  The other four completed novels hover unordered in the middle, as I can never decide which I like best.

Emma was the one I read last out the six, although I was familiar with the story through various adaptations.  While I found that I enjoyed the story of Miss Woodhouse, I have to say I was much more interested in the secondary tale of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill.  The tiny hinting snippets felt so tantalising, so compelling, just out of sight, peeking mischievously round the corner.  And I like Jane Fairfax better.  Emma is a little annoying at times, it feels almost blasphemous to say, and so horribly mean to Miss Bates.

Having read several (usually very silly) Pride and Prejudice ‘what-ifs’, mash-ups and sequels, I knew there was plenty out there for Jane Austen fans who wanted a little more.  Since Mr Firth’s wet-shirtedness (and possibly because it’s just generally more popular), there are more for P&P but I did find a few for Emma, and a grand total of two which focused on Jane and Frank.

One came highly recommended by the lovely reviewers of Amazon.  The reviews for the second one told me to read the first.  And so, here at last we come, after so very much rambling (see what happens when I talk about Jane Austen?) to Lovers’ Perjuries by Joan Ellen Delman.

The novel essentially tells the story of Jane and Frank’s relationship, starting with their meeting in Weymouth and then through the action in Highbury, as told in the background of Emma.  Delman does a wonderful job of keeping true to the original novel, from the characterisation and the timeline, to the language.  She isn’t as witty as Austen, but then who is?  Considering the work she had to base her novel on, Delman did a cracking job.

It felt to me as though the first part of the book was focused almost equally between Jane and Frank’s points of view, while the latter part was much more heavily weighed towards Jane.  It made sense to do this in that it left the reader with some level of uncertainty towards Frank’s actions (although obviously we would know that it all turns out well in the end).  I think perhaps it only felt a little strange to be suddenly deprived of his viewpoint where we had had it so frequently before.

This minor criticism aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Lovers’ Perjuries.  Well-written, engaging and sufficiently meaty to tell the story properly, I’m glad I went for this one over the second book listed on Amazon.  It was nice to read an Austen-inspired novel with a refreshingly low level of silliness.  More of an Elizabeth than a Lydia, which, let’s face it, would be most people’s cup of tea.

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