This is my first completed book from the From the Stacks challenge. It takes a lot of courage to read the eleven chapters which Jane Austen wrote for this book and then write 19 more chapters and finish the story. The heroine, Charlotte Heywood, reminds me most of Anne Elliot--a sensible, no-nonsense kind of girl who doesn't allow her head to be turned by extravagant compliments or much of anything else, either.
She is invited to visit a seaside town for a few weeks during the summer, and there she meets four young eligible gentleman--Sidney and Arthur Parker, the younger brothers of her host, Sir Edward Denham, heir to a title but not a fortune, and Henry Brudenall, who has been recently jilted by his cousin.
I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone who cares to read it, and it is worth reading if you've read and reread all six of Jane Austen's completed novels and have been consoling yourself with far-fetched sequels and "fan fic." This is definitely a cut above any of those that I've read, but if you haven't read the books Jane finished, I'd put this one on the back burner for now and read those first.
Sensible Charlotte has to sort out Sidney Parker's officiousness, Sir Edward's poetic misquotes, young Arthur Parker's solicitous concern for his own health, and Henry Brudenall's taciturn brooding. Naturally the book ends with Jane Austen's typical neat pairing of the young lady with the correct young gentleman. Plenty other typical Janisms are present. There is the requisite surprise pairing of two characters you never realize are interested, a formidable personage reminiscent of Lady Catherine or Sir Thomas, and a handful of caricatures for us to laugh at. Conspicuously missing is a clergyman. I don't think Jane ever neglected to include a clergyman in her books, but she didn't introduce one in the first eleven chapters, and "Another Lady" did not add one.
This book probably has literature's most laughable attempt at an abduction by a character who has taken Mr. Lovelace as his example and pattern to follow. Jane Austen says that about him in her part of the book, and her collaborator follows it through in the best style.
In more than one of her novels, Austen shares her opinions about books and literature, and there is a bit of that in her part of this book. Who but Jane Austen would write:
"The novels which I approve are such as display human nature with grandeur; such as show her in the sublimities of intense feeling; such as exhibit the progress of strong passion from the first germ of incipient susceptibility to the utmost energies of reason half-dethroned; where we see the strong spark of woman's captivations elicit such fire in the soul of man as leads him--though at the risk of some aberration from the strict line of primitive obligations--to hazard all, dare all, achieve all to obtain her. Such are the works which I peruse with delight and, I hope I may say, with amelioration. They hold forth the most splendid portraitures of high conceptions, unbounded views, illimitable ardour, indomitable decision. And even when the event is mainly anti-prosperous to the high-toned machinations of the prime character--the potent, pervading hero of the story--it leaves us full of generous emotions for him; our hearts are paralysed. It would be pseudo-philosophy to assert that we do not feel more enwrapped by the brilliancy of his career than by the tranquil and morbid virtues of any opposing character. Our approbation of the latter is but eleemosynary. These are the novels which enlarge the primitive capabilities of the heart; and it cannot impugn the sense or be any dereliction of the character of the most anti-puerile man, to be conversant with them."
"If I understand you right, "said Charlotte, "our taste in novels is not at all the same."
I presume that Jane's opinion is closer to Charlotte's in this case, rather than to the poetic Sir Edward's, who, in the words of Catherine Moreland, definitely speaks well enough to be unintelligible.
So, this is the first book completed of the five I've determined to read. Three of the others are underway at the moment, and if I don't get distracted (which can never be taken for granted), I should be finishing another book or two soon.