Review: Nonsensibility by Valerie Estelle Frankel

Looking for something different to read in the Jane Austen variation list? Perhaps a comedy where the characters from all of Jane’s novels are mixed up and thrown together like Yahtzee dice?

Nonsensibility by Valerie Estelle Frankel is the answer to your call. This book is a comical, sarcastic mash-up with the most unlikely star—Fanny Anne Collins—the cousin of the Bennets. With this build up you’d expect things to be out of hand, and they are!

You have to feel bad for Miss Collins as she is thrust into the unaccommodating and silly household of the Bennets, herein called the Fussbudgets. With character names like Miss Haughtyton, Mr. Tightlywound, and Mr. Minor-Character, you’d expect silliness and there is that, but the core of the story is witty in a way that does not take itself too seriously. The best way to showcase this book’s genius is to pull out a few samples.

One of my favorite scenes is a spoof of Emma. Remember when Mr. Elton snubs Harriet at the dance? Only this time he’s snubbing Scary (aka Mary Bennett).

“Oh I had not observed [her there]… If I were not suddenly stricken by a terrible leg cramp, I surly would.”

In one of my favorite scenes from Pride and Prejudice—when Darcy happens upon Lizzy right after she’s discovered Lydia has run off with Wickham—this new version reads,

“What has been done to recover her?”
“My father has gone to London, where he can put up ‘Missing Daughter’ posters beside all those that advertise lost kittens and umbrellas.”

And in the famous love letter from Persuasion, this version says,

“I am half in agony, half in hope, and half gastric troubles brought on by an under-cooked Shepard’s pie.”

For die-hard JA fans, there is much to be enjoyed. There is a ball like in Pride and Prejudice, a play like Mansfield Park, and a novel discussion like Northanger Abbey.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Although sarcasm is thick, Regency fans looking for something different will find this text—peppered with sarcastic quips—quite enjoyable. To see our most beloved characters shown in this different light is a nice change of pace. I think you will appreciate some of the jokes that are meant only for the avid JA fan who will understand the context.

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