Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Unlikely Missionary

Fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice rejoice! You are in for treat. As we all know, there are sequels and there are sequels. And Pride and Prejudice just may be the most popular book for budding authors to attempt to reproduce in sequence. However, getting the follow-on to read true to the original isn't something just anyone can achieve. Skylar Hamilton Burris succeeds brilliantly!

In An Unlikely Missionary, Burris takes a road less traveled, in that she steers clear of the Darcys and Bennets and focuses her attention on the intriguing Charlotte Collins, who comes out of the shadows of being a minor character and into the limelight.*

As the heroine of An Unlikely Missionary, Charlotte, doesn't suffer comparison with other younger, prettier women. We get to know her better because the story unfolds from her perspective and - to this reader at least - I came to like her even more through the closer acquaintance.

An Unlikely Missionary picks up the story with Charlotte married to the insufferable Mr. Collins which our author uses to great advantage for our ironic amusement, revealing her talents in the true Austen-style.

The story moves at a fast pace. From the very first pages poor Charlotte's pragmatic reasons for marrying Collins are whisked out from under her and she find herself nursing him on a boatload of strangers bound for India. Immediately I was reminded of the observation made in the The Jane Austen Book Club that in Austen's novels we never learn what happens after the "...and they lived happily ever after!" because what if they didn't? But here, finally, we get to see - or read - the `rest of the story'.

And yet, there is nothing melancholy about An Unlikely Missionary. It evoked in me the full range of emotions--I smiled, cried, sighed, and laughed out loud, sometimes almost at once. The historical and religious research was impeccable so far as I am able to discern, but it only serves as the backdrop for the novel. It is a romantic comedy and belongs in the same class and genre with the rest of Miss Austen's novels; the romantic parts were . . . ah! sublime! Mostly, I enjoyed envisioning it made into a lavish BBC production.

And I don't care what anyone says, Charlotte is beautiful.

Thoroughly delightful book! Treat yourself!

*If you recall from P&P, Charlotte is described as `a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven'; given the time period, this description being tantamount to a kiss-of-death, as there is no mention of her beauty, yet she is still single at the advanced (gasp!) age of twenty-seven. Horrors!


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