Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House
The past few years in particular have seen a plethora of Jane Austen retellings and adaptations. Many of these adaptations are beloved almost as much as Austen’s original stories are. It is gratifying to see an author who has been dead nearly 200 years inspiring such love and devotion that an entire subgenre has developed out of her work. Laurel Ann Nattress, a lover both of Austen’s original books and the “Austenesque” novels, decided to bring together some of the very best authors in the Austenesuqe subgenre – as well as some other authors who have been heavily influenced by Austen’s work – for a collection of original short stories: Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
Sometimes I’m not sure if there has ever been a review written of a short story collection that does not include the word “uneven.” Unfortunately, there are few short story collections that manage to avoid needing such a designation. That reality becomes particularly obvious when the collection is pulled together from the stories of twenty-two different authors. With the exception of Brenna Aubrey, a new writer whose story was included after she won the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest, most of the featured authors are beloved in their genres.
However, though they are incredibly well-respected, these authors are primarily novelists, and many of them did not transition well into the short story form. The second story in particular, Waiting, read as if it were a scene from a novel, rather than a story in its own right. Waiting stood out the most for this issue, but it was evident in other stories to a lesser degree as well. Interestingly, Aubrey’s story, the one submitted through the short story contest, was one of the best.
Certainly, though, there are bright spots in Jane Austen Made Me Do It, in addition to simply Aubrey’s story. Lauren Willig and Jo Beverley’s stories stand out in particular. The casual fan of Austenesque stories might do better to pick a novel by one of these generally esteemed writers, but die hard fans will find enough to love in Jane Austen Made Me Do It that it is worth buying.for an episode of What’s Old is New.
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