Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Review: Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Publisher: Quail Creek Publishing, LLC
Trade Paperback, 228 pages
Book Source: from the author
My Rating: 93/100
A Persuasion Re-imagining.
On Anne Elliot's 25th birthday, her family declared her to be a spinster, but instead of being downcast by this change in status, she finds it to be quite liberating. As a result of her new-found freedom, Anne becomes a long-distance runner, and this activity greatly increases her confidence. It is this new Anne who Captain Frederick Wentworth meets when he sees the love of his life after eight years of separation. The Captain admires the changes in Anne, and he finds that he is falling in love with her all over again. However, there is a complication. The heir to Kellynch, the Elliot estate, William Elliot, has also come back into the picture after an estrangement with Anne's father, Sir Walter Elliot, and he has set his sights on Anne. Now living in Bath, Anne senses that something is not right, and with the help of a street urchin named Swoosh, she sets out to discover what William Elliot is really like.
"People may have their expectations, but I shall do what I think is best for me. I only have this one life, and as limited as it is by society and my own family, it is mine to live as I see fit." --Anne Elliot
This is not your momma's beloved Austen story. Instead it is a fresh, somewhat modernized version of Persuasion. Modernized in the sense of the quote above. Anne will do what she wants and live her life as she sees fit. A Regency woman may dream about this but never actually do it like this Anne did. And I enjoyed Simonsen's retelling because of this aspect.
At 25 Anne Elliott is declared a spinster by her family and written off as unmarriageable. Instead of viewing her change in status as a death sentence, Anne sees it as a rebirth. A chance to do and be what she wants, instead of what society dictates. Why dwell on the negative? Anne is now free to pursue her life to the fullest; or at least as full as it can be without her one true love, Captain Wentworth.
The first thing Anne does is begin running along the country lanes, something that transforms her both physically and mentally. It clears her mind and strengthens her both body and soul. The freedom she experiences when running is so uplifting and positive, that she begins to impart her wisdom or good thoughts to others. Anne encourages those around her to better themselves, and in the process create some of the funny bits in the story. For example, Anne's sister and father very knowledgeable about skin care products, begin selling to friends and family the same products that keep them looking so young and healthy. The business they begin is Avon River Products. Another character who learns about running from Anne decides he would like white stars on the sides of his black boots, thinking they would be sharp looking. Converse sneakers anyone?
This story follows the same premise of Persuasion, but with some additional characters and events, which make for a fun read. Captain Wentworth becomes reacquainted with Anne after time has passed and realizes she is still the one and only gal for him. Anne and Wentworth have more frank conversations about each other and their relationship in this version, and it was quite refreshing to read it this way. And don't worry, Simonsen is true to the original source work in that Anne and Wentworth marry, but not without some hiccoughs along the way.
All in all this was a fun relaxing read. I enjoyed this retelling because although people, items and events are inserted into the story, it went with the general modern feel of this retelling. Come on, what Regency woman in her right mind would take up running and find it enjoyable? This retelling was fun and fresh without having to resort to vampires, werewolves, or hot sex scenes, and I appreciated that.
Maybe a little trite in some places, but overall an enjoyable read.
For more information about Mary Lydon Simonsen, please visit her website.
Thanks to Mary for sending me a copy of her book for review.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction, Reading Romance
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