#29 A Review of Experience by Meg Kerr

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Picking up during the last chapter of Pride and Prejudice, we follow Darcy and Lizzie back to Pemberley for the beginning of the rest of their lives together.  Shortly after their arrival, the holidays come, and with them brings the visit of Col. Fitzwilliam to Pemberley.  We find out that Fitzwilliam is madly in love with Lizzy and decides to express himself to her fully, not concealing his previous wish to ask Elizabeth to marry him.  After discussing the issue with Elizabeth and then Darcy, it is decided that the best course of action for all parties is that he leave Pemberley and return only when he has mastered his emotions.  Upon his return several months later, he is introduced to Elizabeth’s sister Kitty, and falls madly in love with her.  On top of this, we come to find out that Charles and Jane Bingley have been unable to conceive a child which has led to a bit of depression on Jane’s part.  Mary has found herself claiming the attentions of an older gentlemen who seems to respect her for her mind and eventually asks Mr. Bennett for her hand in marriage.  However, all is not well, as Mary soon realizes upon arriving in her new home.  Will Mary be able to survive this sudden turn of events?  Will Kitty accept Col. Fitzwilliam’s advances?  Will Jane and Charles ever be blessed with a baby of their own?

The most common complaint most Austen fan fiction readers have is the exceedingly different language that the modern sequels are written in.  I can proudly say that Experience is the closest thing you can find to an original Jane Austen novel.  Kerr needs to be praised not only for her mastery of Austen’s language, but for her willingness to learn the intricacies of 18th/19th century language.  It’s stunning similarity to Austen’s own pen was the biggest enjoyment factor for me.  I looked at my husband at one point while reading it and said, “I feel like I’m reading a long-lost Austen novel”, to which he replied “It must be pretty good because I’ve never heard you say that before.”  For once, Todd was right, I felt that the writing alone could have drawn me in, but Kerr is a talented author and her strong characterizations also kept me tuned in.

Kerr stays true to the characters that Austen originally introduced us to.  What’s commendable about this is that she stays true to even the characters that we only get to see a skeleton of in Austen’s work.  These minor characters that make strong impressions on us originally got another chance at seeing the light of day in Kerr’s work, as she features them in the prominence that they deserve and that Austen may have eventually intended them to be in.  Such minor characters actually carry the novel, with strong storylines being attached to Kitty, Mary, and Col. Fitzwilliam.  And while Darcy and Lizzy are still prominently found in the novel, you find yourself drawn to the storylines of these characters as they have their moments in the limelight that Kerr provides them.

My only complaint with the novel was that some of the characters’ storylines weren’t expanded upon as much as I thought they would be.  Georgiana and Caroline Bingley’s storylines I felt could have used some more work.  They both had great potential, but I was left wanting.  Although after speaking with Meg yesterday, I know that she is working on another novel, one with more attention paid to Georgiana.  I’m all anticipation for this and you can gladly add me to the list of people who will be reading it!

All in all, I truly enjoyed Kerr’s extension of Austen’s original work.  I felt that her realistic writing style, combined with a fleshing out of Austen’s original minor characters combined to form an excellent novel.  I highly recommend it to those of you who always wonder what happened to the Bennet sisters past the last chapter of Pride and Prejudice, as well as those who love the beautiful language that Austen uses in her works.

4 out of 5 stars

This is my sixteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Experience by Meg Kerr
Bluebell Publishing (2011)
Paperback 314 pages

An Interview With Meg Kerr; Author of Experience

I recently had the opportunity to read Experience, author Meg Kerr’s debut into the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  Meg was kind enough to allow me to interview her about her book and about her love of Jane Austen.  My review of Experience will be posted tomorrow, so make sure you check back in!!

Meg thank you so much for sparing me your time and for answering all my questions!

It’s obvious in your writing style that you are a fan of Jane Austen.  How were you introduced to her writings?  Which of her novels is your favorite?

I can’t remember how I came upon it now, but I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was twelve, and for a long time I re-read it every year.  I added Austen’s other novels one by one, but none of them ever challenged Pride and Prejudice for supremacy in my heart (although I’m very fond of both Emma and Persuasion).  Quite simply, Jane Austen is one of the greatest writers in the English language and she was at the height of her powers when she wrote Pride and Prejudice.

What made you set out to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice?  Was there a particular character/plot line you wanted to write about?

It’s really very arrogant for a writer to try to follow in Austen’s footsteps, but…. I had always wondered what happened to everyone after the last page of Pride and Prejudice, because we get very interested in and attached to the characters, but Austen gives us so little information about their future.  And then there was the purely technical writing challenge: I wanted to see how close I could come to Austen’s style and tone, and what was required to do it. She is almost writing in a foreign language, it is so elevated in comparison to 20th/21st century English. It’s even very elevated in comparison to most 19th century English. You have to go back to the 18th century to find similar language.

What was your favorite character/scene to write about in Experience?

I had so many! I think I fell in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam a little, and Kitty turned out to have charm that I had never suspected. If you can believe it, I even became attached to Mary and Caroline Bingley. Really, I couldn’t write about any of the characters without growing fond of them.  For sheer fun, of course, writing the scenes with Lady Catherine was the best.

How did you decide on the title Experience for your novel?

Despite their beauty, intelligence, accomplishments and ability to speak in perfect sentences, all the girls in Pride and Prejudice are so young and so sheltered that you just know that some of them will get their noses bumped by living their lives—and that some of them will flourish when they get an opportunity to spread their wings.  I wanted a one-word title, and “experience” seemed to sum it up.

Do you have plans to write any more Austen influenced sequels?  Can you tell us about them?

You may have noticed that Georgiana was still at a loose end when Experience finished.  I’m working on a book that tells her story – and other stories, naturally!

How did you decide to become a writer?  Who are your author influences?

Actually I never decided to become a writer. I just was a writer. I wrote my first book when I was six, as soon as I learned to print with a pencil. It was, however, a very short book. My author influences are mainly 19th and early 20th century writers. They never wrote a “throwaway” sentence!  (Maybe they had more time in those days.) But they also didn’t let their sentences get in the way of the story. Austen, of course, the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, A.A. Milne—these are some of them.

In reading Experience, one can tell that you have a love of horses.  How did this come about?

I think it’s in my blood. My mother’s father’s family were Irish farmers who came to Canadian the early 19th century. The Irish are horse-mad, and there are all kinds of tales in the family about how much the men and women loved their horses. I have a picture of my father holding me on the back of a horse when I was two.

Pride and Prejudice has been adapted numerous times in film and television.  Which is your favorite adaptation, and who is your favorite Darcy?

How can anyone even ask? The BBC miniseries and Colin Firth!

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for my review of Experience.  If you’d like to know more about Meg’s novel or Meg herself you can check out her website here.