Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book 18: By a Lady

NUMBER: 18
TITLE: By A Lady: Being the Adventures of an Enlightened American in Jane Austen's England
AUTHOR:
Amanda Elyot
STARTED: April 9, 2007
FINISHED: April 13, 2007
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: "It's beautiful," C.J. murmured, examining the curiously pockmarked amber cross.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] New York actress C.J. Welles, a die-hard Jane Austen fan, is on the verge of landing her dream role: portraying her idol in a Broadway play. But during her final audition, she is mysteriously transported to Bath, England, in the year 1801. And Georgian England, with its rigid and unforgiving social structure and limited hygienic facilities, is not quite the picturesque costume drama C.J. had always imagined.

Just as she wishes she could click her heels together and return to Manhattan, C.J. meets the delightfully eccentric Lady Dalrymple, a widowed countess who takes C.J. into her home, introducing her as a poor relation to Georgian society-including the dashing Earl of Darlington and his cousin, Jane Austen!

When a crisis develops, C.J.-in a race against time-becomes torn between two centuries. An attempt to return to her own era might mean forfeiting her blossoming romance with the irresistible Darlington and her growing friendship with Jane Austen, but it's a risk she must take. And in the midst of this remarkable series of events, C.J. discovers something even more startling-a secret from her own past that may explain how she wound up in Bath in the first place.

REASON FOR READING: I read about it some time ago.

THOUGHTS: I wanted to like this book, I really did, but the author just would not let me. Elyot seems to go out of her way to bore the reader. The book at times seems nothing more than one continuous info dump. When there's no informational inundation occurring, Elyot confuses the reader with her lost narrative and description. The writing, at times, seems lyrical - for the most part, however, this was one dull read.

Elyot spends so much time info dumping that she never actually develops her characters. While her heroine, C.J. rarely spews forth information, the secondary characters' only purpose seems to be a constant dialog about their past or future plans. When Elyot gets those characters talking, I was just taken right out the book. The tone of the writing changes at the info dumps and it feels like a completely different book.

There was far too many instances of character's unnecessarily outlining their history. Elyot has Darlington spend pages talking about his background and it adds absolutely nothing to his character or narrative. He just prattles on and on and on and on and on and on about his family, his former wife, his schooling, yada, yada, yada. I just wanted to smack some duct tape over his mouth. It actually seems like Elyot was trying to impress the reader with how fully she developed her characters. God I was bored.

On top of that, the author clearly wants to showcase all the research she conducted. Egad. She doesn't shut up. I'm all for correct historical details, but this was going to far. Elyot was showing off - "Look, I researched clothing!" or "I totally studied period maps of Bath." If an author wants to include accurate history, that's all well and good, but don't shove it down my throat. The historical fictions that work include history without talking to the reader like they're some paste-eating five year old. I'm not an idiot so don't talk to me like one. Elyot misses the point of research completely - it's not meant to impress the reader, it's supposed to set the stage. Good research in a novel means that the reader is not aware of it. You want them engrossed in the story, not wishing the could hit you over the head with a kidskin slipper.

Elyot's narrative is also confusing in many places. Her descriptions of scenes and her characters actions are all over place. There were multiple times where I read a passage three, four, or more times and was still lost. If I can't understand what you're saying, I will not enjoy the book. Elyot also changes characters POVs with no transition or warning (sometimes mid-paragraph). One second you're in the C.J.'s head the and next your a butler with one line in the whole novel. By the time I was done reading I felt schizophrenic.

The only thing that keeps me from panning the book outright is the fact that the language was beautiful. Elyot has an extensive vocabulary and, when she's not trying so damn hard, she can describe a scene beautifully.

Elyot is so wrapped up in her own illustriousness that the book suffers terribly. This novel had vast stores of potential, but Elyot spent to much time trying to impress her readers with her abundant knowledge and research that she forgot to craft a story.

MISCELLANEOUS: When up in a clip my hair, as of late, has looked remarkably like it belongs in the 19th Century.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Onto PBS.com it goes.
RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

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