Welcome "Everything Austen" participants!
Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster.
My first thought...disappointing. Sorry!
From the book:
" It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Austen heroine must be in want of a husband, and you are no exception. Christened Elizabeth Bennet, you are tolerably beautiful and moderately accomplished, with a sharp wit and quick mind. You are the daughter of misguided but well-meaning parents and live with them and your four sisters- Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia- in the village of Longbourne, near the town of Meryton. You are of a happy disposition and have hitherto whiled away your years reading, walking and enjoying what limited society Meryton has to offer. A recent event, however, threatens to disturb your tranquility: a man of large fortune has let a nearby manor house. Inconsequential though this change of circumstance appears, it is the first in a long chain of events that will require you to face difficult decisions and impolite dance partners. Equipped with only your wit and natural good sense, your mission is to marry both prudently and for love, eluding undesirable suitors and avoiding family scandals which would almost certainly ruin any hope of a financially advantageous marriage for you or any of your sisters."
Sounds promising doesn't it? That's what I thought too...
Emma Campbell Webster writes with lashings of the irony and humour that Jane Austen fans love. Consider this scene where you are introduced to Mr Collins:
"He has been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Fight Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred him to the valuable rectory of the parish of Hunsford in Kent. He begs leave to apologize for being next in the entail of Longbourne estate and being the means of injuring Mr Bennet's amiable daughters, and assures your father of his readiness to make those daughters every possible amends.
You can only guess that he means by marrying one of you.
At least you'd be saved from homelessness. Collect 10 bonus Fortune points.
Your father confesses to you great hopes of finding him ridiculous and there is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter which promises well. Mr Collins is punctual to his time and is received with great politeness by the whole family. He is a tall, heavy-looking young man of five and twenty. His air is grave and stately, and his manners are extremely formal. During dinner Mr Collins launches into a panegyric on his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her sickly daughter, Anne, towards whom he conceives himself peculiarly bound to pay little attentions which he admits to often rehearsing.
You'd rather be homeless than married to Mr Collins. Deduct 10 Fortune points."
Campbell uses the "choose your own adventure" concept to include "diversions" from the storyline of Pride and Prejudice, which introduce characters, and borrow plots from other Austen works. She supplies notes at the end of the book, which detail which novels she is borrowing from or referencing. She also provides plenty of opportunities to test your knowledge of the life and times of Austen's heroines, answering such sticky questions as How many couples face each other when dancing a reel?
Despite these promising signs, Lost in Austen simply couldn't sustain my interest beyond and hour or two. The "choose you own adventure" concept quickly loses its novelty, and it becomes frustrating to lose the flow of the narrative by taking a 'wrong turn'. No matter how wisely I tried to make my decisions, attempting to both follow the plot of P&P and avoid some of Elizabeth's mistakes in the original, I found myself utterly unable to successfully complete my mission. (Marry prudently and for love.) I was an utter failure in Elizabeth's role!
This book may provide a short, pleasant diversion for the Austen addict, but it's not a keeper.