By Angie Georgeff
It is no secret I am a huge fan of Jane Austen. I am not alone. Millions of women—and men—all around the world wish she had been as prolific as James Patterson. She didn’t come close, completing only seven novels. Yes, seven. One of those, the epistolary novel “Lady Susan,” is not widely known, but we do have it in our collection.
Austen’s novels are just so funny! I know you thought I was going to say romantic, but they are comedies of manners, which depict and satirize the manners and customs of a social class. These literary works often focus on the upper classes, but some, such as scripts for “The Beverly Hillbillies,” compare and contrast social strata in order to poke fun, once again, at those on top. Who would not consider Jed Clampett to be more truly a gentleman than banker Milburn Drysdale?
With the release of Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice,” publisher HarperCollins is now more than halfway through its Austen Project. Its aim is to reframe each of Jane’s six well-known plots in a contemporary setting, while satirizing modern manners. There is just as much fodder for humor in manners and customs today as there was in Austen’s Regency England.
Joanna Trollope’s reworking of “Sense and Sensibility,” Val McDermid’s reboot of “Northanger Abbey” and Alexander McCall Smith’s iteration of “Emma” have preceded “Eligible,” which leaves updates of “Mansfield Park” and “Persuasion” yet to come. Retelling “Persuasion” should be simple enough, but I will have to admire the author who can take on “Mansfield Park.” Its main characters Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram were out of step with the times when the book was published in 1814. I wonder how they’ll deal with social media.
Former college football star Melvin Mars has spent two decades on death row for the brutal killing of his parents. As the scheduled time for his execution draws near, he receives an unforeseen reprieve. Another man has confessed to the double murder. The execution is put on hold until the claim can be investigated.
The sensational news gives Amos Decker a serious case of déjà vu. Decker had played against Melvin Mars during his years at Ohio State. He remembers it well. Thanks to his hyperthymesia, Decker remembers everything well, both the good and the bad.
Mars and the Longhorns of Texas had beaten the Buckeyes and crushed their hopes for a national championship. That coincidence is enough to link the two men, but it was the similarities between the murders of the Mars couple and his own family that make Decker eager to take on Melvin’s case. “The Last Mile” is the latest thriller from David Baldacci.