the diary of a (fictional) naval man

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 |

Jane Austen spinoffs, re-tellings and mash-ups are all over the place. I saw three in the book section at COSTCO the other day (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, as it happens). As a former closet Austen addict, I knew that these products existed. I even owned a few (Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field, anyone?). What I wasn’t aware of: QUANTITY. But it became evident as soon as I signed up for the Everthing Austen challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word that were more choices and options for completing the task than I had ever imagined. So that’s the long story about why I’m reviewing a book that wasn’t on my original list: I didn’t know I was spoiled for choice. Now I do. Woe is me (the TBR pile grows!). The short story: it looked cool, and Nicole (of Books and Bards) told me it was the best of the ‘Diaries’ – and definitely worth the read.

So that’s that.

Oh, you wanted a review? Well, if you insist…

Captain Wentworth’s Diary features…Captain Wentworth. Funny, that. He’s the male ‘lead’ in my favorite Jane Austen novel. Persuasion, if you were wondering. Heck, it’s one of my favorite books of all time! As you may have guessed, the Captain’s a navy man. Well, you should really read Persuasion, so that I don’t have to spell it all out. Here, you can even get it for free online! Suffice it to say, in the Austen novel the main characters meet again after eight years apart and the story ensues. What you get in the Diary is that first meeting in earlier years, the dude’s thoughts during actual Austen novel time, and then a tad after the story ended in the original. Here, just read the synopsis (courtesy of Goodreads).

Amanda Grange continues her series of much-loved Jane Austen retellings with Captain Wentworth's Diary. It is 1806, and the Napoleonic wars are ravaging Europe. Frederick Wentworth, a brilliant young man with a flourishing career in the navy, is spending his shore leave in Somerset, where he meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. The two become engaged, but Anne's godmother persuades Anne to change her mind, leaving Wentworth to go back to sea a bitter and disappointed man.

Eight years pass, and peace is declared. Wentworth is no longer a young man with his way to make in the world, but a seasoned captain with a fortune at his disposal. He is ready to marry anyone with a little beauty who pays a few compliments to the navy - or so he says - until he sees Anne. Anne's bloom has faded, yet she has the same sensibilities and superior mind she had eight years earlier, and before he knows it, he is falling in love with her all over again. Can there be a happy outcome for them this time around, or have they lost their chance of love forever?

Things I liked: Grange did an amazing job finding an individual voice for Wentworth. In Persuasion you hear from Anne 99% of the time. Well, in all of Austen’s novels you get the female voice almost exclusively, except for letters. I think part of the reason I love Wentworth (and Darcy) so much is that he writes a letter to Anne, and there you get his voice pure and unadulterated. So Grange had something to work with (beside dialogue and actions) – a profession of love, with a specific tone and word choice. Grange also included more on background characters such as the Harvilles and Benwick and Wentworth’s brother. All of these characters were original to the Austen story, but they’re fleshed out and interesting in Diary.

Things I didn’t like: I liked almost everything about this book, so it’s hard to think of any one thing…but I will say that the story lagged a little bit for me during the middle of the story when Wentworth is re-introduced to Anne and they figure things out. Basic complaint: if you’re going to reiterate the original story without any new anecdotes or unique thoughts, then leave it out (and up to the reader to find the original). Having said that, if I hadn’t read Persuasion so recently, I might not have minded.

In all, I really loved Ms. Grange’s take on Captain Wentworth. I think she did a fantastic job of devising thoughts, actions and dialogue that fit with the original Austen story, and yet were entertaining and fresh. Recommended for all my fellow Austen addicts (but read Persuasion first!).


The Cozy Mystery Journal said...

There are a lot of re-writes and sequels! I can't keep up and I read a lot of them.

I haven't read this one yet. It looks good, but I may need to re-read Persuasion first.

So far Persuading Annie is my fav Persuasion spinoff!

Lucy said...

Wonderful review! I want to read this one too...gee I had started with only doing the basic challenge- now I'm wondering if it's too late to add on? Thanks for visiting me- you've got a great blog- I'll be around again for sure:)

theduckthief said...

Persuasion seems to strike a chord in people. It's now my favourite Austen book after having read it earlier this year and is also the favourite of a friend of mine.

The most recent movie adaptation didn't hurt either. Rupert Penry-Jones isn't exactly hard on the eyes.

Rhiannon Hart said...

Persuasion is the most romantic Austen in my opinion. I'm not really interested in reading spin-offs, but it's good that people are starting to see past Darcy to the other heroes! The letter Wentworth writes to Anne--oh, SWOON! :)

Heather G. said...

Oh yeah! I just picked this one up from the library! So glad to hear it's great. Great review!

vvb32 reads said...

will do. read persuasion first that is. the pic of wentworth makes him a cutie-pie. i so want to get this one!

btw: i have grange's diary of darcy in my pile along with mr. darcy, vampyre.

Nicole said...

I loved this one, too--it's my favorite of Grange's diary series. Well, although Col. Brandon's is vying for that spot. Both are so well done, and they add a lot to the original book, which I love.

Great review!

christine (booktumbling) said...

There truly are so many of the mash-ups. I personally like them. They may actually cause someone to read the original. Great review as always and um, thanks for adding to my TBR skyscraper!

Logan said...

Oh dear. I just realized that I'm a closet Jane Austen reader. I picked up the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a bookstore once and couldn't make it through a chapter I was so annoyed. I suppose their are some real Austen fans out there who can stand it, but I don't see how...Thanks for writing, Cecelia!

Jenn M. said...

I just picked up Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and will be reading it next.

I think all of the spinoffs are funny and a good way to keep Austen fresh and relevant.

I was originally horrified at the very aspect of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but then I saw more than one man reading it...and thought, "Hmmm is this the way to get men to read Austen??? Put some blood and guts and zombies in it?" I'm going to read it at some point before December!

Jenny Girl said...

Oh I'm glad this was good. I guess they recount the story for those who don't know, but I agree with you, make them look it up.
Thnaks for the good review :)

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I have to admit-I had no idea how many Jane Austen themed books were out there until this challenge. It's mind boggling. I may have to read this one because I love Capt. Wentworth, and really enjoyed Mr.Darcy, Vampire by Amanda Grange.

H said...

I really liked Persuasion so I might give this a try.

Laura's Reviews said...

This is my favorite of the diaries as well. Persuasion is my favorite and I love Captain Wentworth. I really like how this book gave him his voice and the backstory of their first romance. The other diaries stick more to the timeline of the novel without additional information before or after the story, which is slightly frustrating.

Great review!

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