cover photo provided by Jane Odiwe
Author Jane Odiwe’s latest novel Project Darcy is a beautifully written story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Exquisite imagery accompanied by an intriguing tale of a modern-day heroine and her travels into the past, embodying the life of Jane Austen in the Winter of 1796, gives the story its pulse.
I am always excited to find Austen sequels that hold the true essence of the great author. It is often difficult to do justice to her works, or even try to write a sequel with beloved characters that hold their sacred place in literature along with their creator. Jane Odiwe’s books are special in that way; they reflect her love for Austen, her travels to places Austen frequented and intricate details of the life Austen led. Each page takes you on a journey to acquaint you intimately with this sharp,witty, intuitive and glorious writer who makes you sigh with pleasure every time you pick up a copy of any one of her great novels.
In Project Darcy, Jane Odiwe offers us the most intimate look into the past, the one that brought Darcy and Elizabeth into our lives. Being an artist, she has painted her characters in settings of sumptuous colors, fabrics and seasons, weaving them into delicious words. I often found her descriptions of the simplest of food delectable.The scenery is simply breathtaking. If you stop for a second to take it all in, it surrounds you. I was moved by so many scenes, but since I can’t go into all of it, I will quote a few lines that I read many times over. It embraces that time in the past, lending itself to a backdrop of something inexplicable and mysterious.
“There was a picture of a Christmas card in front of her – snow covered the ground, lit up from the moon above and from the candlelight in the windows, which threw bars of gold against blue snow shadowed by tall trees.” “Powdering every surface, snow crystals were piled in pillows up to the steps and weighed down lacy boughs on trees, bending them to smooth white blankets on the ground.”
Ellie( Elizabeth) and Jess are best friends, as close as sisters. Along with their friends, Martha, Cara and Liberty, they join an archaeological dig to find the remnants of Jane Austen’s childhood home Steventon Rectory. When Jess’s godmother invites them to stay at Ashe while she’s in Tuscany, Ellie in particular is taken with the beautiful home that seems so inviting with its wisteria and roses climbing the walls. Ashe is also the home of Jane Austen’s good friend Madame Lefroy, where she encounters a young man, said to have had a huge impact on her life and writing – Tom Lefroy. Ellie who is able to see into the past, immediately senses and sees a beautiful young man, a faint figure, by the upstairs window. The visual moves her immediately, gives her a sense of familiarity, and then, just as suddenly as he appears, he disappears. As the girls settle into the house and become acquainted with Mrs Hill, the housekeeper, the attention to detail in their surroundings become the focal point and the pairings are stunning. From a fragrant arrangement of roses and lavender to a marble fireplace and pretty floral china. From a sofa covered in dove grey linen, to a French bed with button silk upholstery. From vintage to Regency, the colors dance out of the pages.
Jane Odiwe was kind enough to let me use this photo
Ellie and Jess in their close relationship have some similarity to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, but they are very much their own people. I was struck by Jess’s personal story and Ellie’s sense of independence, her forthright nature. I believe Martha has some similarity to Mary, although I liked Martha much more. Cara and Liberty, stood out loud and clear, in fact extremely loud, all of their personalities however, with their own twists and turns bind the story in all the right places. Some characters like Donald, who reminded me of Mr Collins, injected bursts of humor here and there, and I loved it when Jess in particular, met handsome young Charlie Harden, who reminded me of Mr Bingley. Jane Odiwe kept the story in the present as conflicted and interesting as the story in the past. Ellie’s encounter with Henry alone made me enjoy it that much more. I also love how the story touches on subjects that are current; without revealing too much the author is able to take liberties with the present and portray some very real crises. Things that touch the heart. Sadness and judgement. The contrast between being irresponsible and young and steady and level-headed. My very favorite mention of course, is of Colin Firth and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
When Ellie begins her travels into 1796, the story grows as we begin to see her transform into Jane Austen. Odiwe transitions in and out of the past so seamlessly, allowing me to feel all the intensity of Austen’s emotions through Ellie. I felt every heartbeat, every look, and every step. I was there when Austen danced her way through the Winter balls with her handsome young Irish friend. They certainly made quite the couple. As Ellie uncovers what truly occurred that Winter, the beginnings of Pride and Prejudice, a beautiful story of love, unfolds. Every scene in the past is so other worldly, it is almost too beautiful, I was transported so quickly, that these words – ” there was laughter and movement and flurries of white muslin as dashing young men spun their partners around, satin slippers kicking up the chalk” – made me stay longer than I wanted. In fact, I didn’t want Ellie to come back at all. I even inhaled hints of fresh limes and geranium and just as I thought she was about to learn more, feel more, she returns to the present, quite changed. What I found most intriguing, a lesson if you will – the mention of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood – the beginnings of Sense and Sensibility. Jane/Ellie writing in the past about choosing the head over the heart. It is not just a concept that stays in the past but one that is extremely relevant to the present as well. I truly enjoyed this book, I hope you will too.
Book – Project Darcy who inspired Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice By Jane Odiwe
- paperback, 320 pages
- Published by, Paintbox Publishing
- First Edition, 2013
- Review copy provided by Jane Odiwe
- ISBN 978-0-9545722-3-5
Please check out Jane Odiwe at…
Jane Odiwe – Austen Effusions: http://www.austeneffusions.com
Jane Austen Sequels: http://www.janeaustensequels.blogspot.co.uk
Austen Authors: http://austenauthors.net