As a Jane Austen fan, sometimes you want to read the classics, and sometimes you want to read a new variation. Other times, you just want to sit around and geek out with your friends on your favorite parts and what might happen if you stepped into the novels. Well, if you’re in your geek-out mode, I have the book for you. Dancing with Mr. Darcy is an anthology that includes twenty stories inspired by Jane and Chawton House. Now, these are not variations per se. They are more about Jane or the fans themselves and how her stories effected them.
One of my favorite shorts is the very first one called “Jane Austen Over the Styx” by Victoria Owens, where all of the older women in Jane’s books try to prosecute her for portraying them in a bad light. It’s pretty funny to see Mrs. Bennett, Lady Catherine, Mrs. Ferrars, Mrs. Churchhill, Lady Russell, and Mrs. Norris call Jane out on her unfair ageism.
“…charge: namely that you, Jane Austen between the years 1775 and 1817 did maliciously undercut the respect due for youth to age, in that when you created female characters of advanced years, you willfully portrayed every one of them as a snob, a scold, or a harpy who selfishly or manipulatively interferes with the happiness of an innocent third party.”
To see how she pleads and the hilarious evidence that is brought up against her, you must read the story. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Another story I enjoyed was “Eight Years Later” by Elaine Grotefeld, a modern love story told from a gentleman’s perspective. Chris is a guy who started reading Austen (especially Persuasion) as a child and sees his soulmate at a coffee shop one day, reading his favorite book. They can’t connect then, but years later, he proposes a meet up at Jane’s Chawton House. Will she show? Will she stand him up?
This book is full of little snapshots of Austen fans and is a delightfully different take on all the Austen fandom that we see in books these days. In the tradition of Jane Austen Book Club and Austenland, this little collection was a great break from my usual variation obsession.