In November 1797, Thomas Cadell, of the eminent London publishing firm Cadell & Davies, rejected Jane Austen’s early draft of Pride and Prejudice. The letter he’d received from Austen’s father was perfectly cordial; in truth, it was rather sweet (‘As I am well aware of what consequence it is that a work of this sort should make its first appearance under a respectable name[,] I apply to you’), and adorably naïve in its assumption that one of the most successful firms in England would be piqued by ‘a Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols. about the length of Miss Burney’s Evelina’, from the unknown daughter of an unknown parson.

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Book Review – National Book Award Winner – Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Even after this novel won the National Book Award for 2011, I put off reading it. I wanted to read it; I just wanted to be able to skip over the parts centering on dog fighting, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that. I can’t skip over parts of a book unless they’re totally boring, and I knew Salvage the Bones, whatever else it was, wasn’t going to be boring.

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Jane Austen’s Most Widely Mocked Character is Also Her Most Subversive

Of all the delightful idiots filling the pages of our well-worn copies of Pride and Prejudice (hint: this is everyone except maybe Charlotte), one of the best is also one of the most overlooked—even by Jane Austen, who never grants her a first name. Mrs. Bennet, mother to the five Bennet sisters and incorrigible social gadfly, is largely dismissed by both the book’s readers and its facetious narrator, but she is perhaps the most radical character in the novel.

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Book Review – Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

I love William Boyd’s novels, in particular, An Ice Cream WarBrazzaville Beach, and A Good Man In Africa. With Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms, however, Boyd ventured – successfully, I might add – into the realm of the spy thriller. Spy thrillers have never been my cup of tea, so I was hoping Boyd would return to the well written literary novels of Brazzaville Beach and A Good Man In Africa. His latest effort, however, Waiting for Sunrise, continues covering the same type of genre territory he covered in his two previous books.

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Book Review – Absolution by Patrick Flanery

Most of us have strong views about South Africa. Most of us know what South Africa under apartheid was like, if not firsthand, then from news reports, magazines, books, or other people. In Patrick Flanery’s wonderful debut novel, Absolution, set in the years before and after South Africa’s first free election in 1994, one character who knows the “ins and outs” of apartheid is celebrated novelist, Clare Wald.

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Book Review – Wanting by Richard Flanagan

Wanting, the fifth novel by Tasmanian author, Richard Flanagan, opens in 1839 as a former London builder, George Augustus Robinson, aka, the “Great Conciliator,” aka, the “Protector,” has been sent to clean up the killing fields of Tasmania (Van Dieman’s Land) by resettling the remaining natives in camps, first at Wybalenna on remote Flinders Island, and then at Oyster Cove, in the south of mainland Tasmania. As he travels, Robinson notes: “There is not a boat harbour along the whole line of coast but what numbers of the unfortunate natives have been shot; their bones are to be seen strewed on the ground.”

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Actually, Emma is the Best Jane Austen Novel

Jane Austen’s Emma, which came out 200 years ago today, may not be as popular with audiences as Pride and Prejudice, but it’s become the novel that critics consider her masterpiece. Its hero Mr. Knightley hasn’t spawned any swoony Colin Firth-Mr. Darcy screen-equivalents, and its heroine, a pioneering “rich bitch,” may prove hard to stomach, especially when she’s compared to the incomparable Elizabeth Bennet.

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