A reimagined version of Jane Austen’s 1790 novella Love and Freindship [sic] complements this partial collection of Austen’s early works.
Andrews’ (The Unforgiving Eye, 2014, etc.) expansion of Austen’s early epistolary tale begins with a new frame story, narrated by a woman named Marianne. In Austen’s original, Marianne only serves as a device to prompt her mother’s friend Laura Lindsay to disgorge a tale of her own bizarre life. Andrews wisely draws Marianne as a fuller character—curious, skeptical, and circumspect—who’d be very much at home in a later Austen novel. (For example, Marianne struggles with doubts about her upcoming marriage.) The story then shifts to the main plot of Austen’s original story, focusing on Laura’s recounting of her youth, starting with her first encounter with her husband, Edward Lindsay. When they meet, Edward is horrified by the idea of marriage to Lady Dorothea, who’s “wealthy and titled” and, worse, meets with his father’s approval. After he and Laura marry instead, their travels take them first to the home of Augustus and Sophia, a young couple who share their devotion to romance and opulence. Laura’s story progresses with absurd coincidences—she meets her never-before-seen grandfather and a few cousins in a single chance encounter—and dramatic turns from which she draws misguided conclusions. Many passages are near verbatim from Austen’s original text, but Andrews’ humor is broader; the expanded tale is peppered with jokes, including one about the house of a family called the MacDonalds, which features “golden arches,” and an allusion to Bridget Jones’s Diary. There are times when this heightened jokiness pays off, as in Laura’s repeated clarification to the widowed Sophia that her own husband lives while “Augustus is still dead.” The rest of the volume consists of Austen’s original text of Love and Freindship and other works of juvenilia. These display Austen’s vacillations between satirical impulses and the psychological observations of her mature writing. However, this section would have benefited from editorial notes; it’s hard not to suspect when reading a long, winking section, for example, on “the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef,” that one is missing a joke.
An enthusiastic engagement of Austen’s juvenilia that will be of interest to her very devoted fans.