Plot: The storyline transpires with the rush of a dress rehearsal, which is only fitting for this Austenian prologue. As the characters perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream, McVeigh fictionalizes even Shakespeare’s work in an exquisite diversion from the classics.
Prose/Style: The ornate words wholly reflect the language of the nineteenth century. The author’s writing fashions antiquity, where the sentences feel posh and intellectual.
Originality: This book contains a charming awareness of Jane Austen’s novels that careful readers can collect like small tokens. As Susan says, she is neither “handsome, clever, well-travelled, rich,” and McVeigh flaunts her success with reinvention.
Character Development/Execution: Some characters feel strikingly similar to Austen’s characters, while others including Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hawthorn, and Frank Churchill come straight from the original novels. In this nineteenth-century portrayal, Emma mingles with Pride and Prejudice in a delightful confrontation between the two books' worlds.
Date Submitted: April 29, 2021
McVeigh’s Austenesque prose and plotting are pitch-perfect, and in fact many readers will forget they’re reading the words of a contemporary novelist. One chapter opens, “Lady Catherine, who prided herself on her timeliness, expected to leave for the country at half-eleven, and by half-ten was already harrying her servants, berating her coachmen and confusing her maids, while Susan sat quietly in the drawing-room, pretending to be immersed in a book.” Susan, of course, is a mischievous and clever heroine in the tradition of Austen’s pluckiest characters, and McVeigh populates her story with a cast of first-rate supporting characters, especially Susan’s cousin Alicia, who in the end provides the biggest surprise of the tale.
McVeigh’s depiction of Regency society and class castes rings true on every page, offering a clear picture of how restrictive circumstances were for anyone not rich, white, and male. (She also demonstrates the outrages that society allowed privileged men to get away with.) While this title will be catnip to dedicated Austen fans, even new initiates into her work will be captivated by this lively tale.
Takeaway:This exceptionally crafted Austen-inspired novel echoes the master herself.
Great for fans of: Jane Austen, Ibi Zoboi’s Pride, Jo Baker’s Longbourn.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A