Friday, July 27, 2007

Book Review: Old Friends and New Fancies

At the end of June, I received an e-mail from Cathy, of SourceBooks, Inc., a publishing company, asking if I would like to receive a couple of Jane Austen-ish books and review them on this blog. I first wrote about these books here.

The first book I read is actually the first Jane Austen sequel, written by Sybil G. Brinton and published in 1914. Old Friends and New Fancies has just been re-published for our reading pleasure. This novel is subtitled "An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen." That's right: novels---plural.

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Brinton cleverly used characters from Jane Austen's six finished novels in her story, easily creating acquaintances, friendships, and even romances. Most of our old favorites are included and a good number of characters who remained unattached at the end of their novels play large roles. Brinton focused mainly on Colonel Fitzwilliam, Kitty Bennet, and Georgiana Darcy from Pride and Prejudice; Tom Bertram, Mary Crawford, and William Price from Mansfield Park; and James Morland from Northanger Abbey. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, Captain and Mrs. Wentworth, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ferrars, Mr. and Mrs. Knightley, and numerous other characters make large and small appearances. The setting is mainly Bath, Pemberley, and the Bingleys' estate. Who wouldn't want to go back to Pemberley?

I quite enjoyed reading Old Friends and New Fancies, not least because I was able to meet some of my favorite characters again and visit beloved places such as the Darcys' estate. In the past, I have been wary of reading Jane Austen sequels for fear that the author has taken liberties with the characters and made them behave as they would not. Rest assured, Brinton did no such thing. Her writing style is rather similar to Jane's and I was always delighted to read lines that sounded so like the great Jane's own. For instance, this exchange between Mr. and Mrs. Darcy seems right in line with what Jane might have written:

Mr. Darcy: ". . . we have got into shocking ways since my wife married into the family."
Mrs. Darcy: "On the contrary, I think I have educated you all admirably."
Or this exchange between the irasible Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Darcy:

Elizabeth: "We have all been enjoying your piece so much. It must be delightful to be able to play like that. My aunt is such a lover of music that she cannot hide her enthusiasm."
"And why should I hide it, may I ask?" demanded Lady Catherine. "My judgment has often been of great service to young amateurs, among whom you might include yourself, Elizabeth."
"Yes, I know," replied Elizabeth, good-humouredly . . ."
That is just how I imagine Elizabeth would get along with Lady Catherine, once Elizabeth had established herself as Mr. Darcy's wife and mistress of Pemberley, and made it clear to Lady Catherine that she would not be trifled with.

Old Friends and New Fancies is full of delightful little moments that remind the reader of Jane's beloved novels. It is amusing to try to figure out who will end up with whom!

I am glad to have read Old Friends and New Fancies and would recommend it to any Jane Austen fan. I hope you will pick up a copy at any bookstore and let us know what you think.

Book Information: Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen by Sybil G. Brinton (ISBN: 978-1-4022-0888-1; July 2007; $14.95 U.S./$19.95 CAN; Paperback)

My thanks to Cathy at Sourcebooks, Inc.!

You can also find more Jane Austen inspired books by visiting

In the next few days I will post another review about the second book Cathy sent me: Letters From Pemberley: the First Year.

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