Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Reads of 2013 (24th in a Series)

As a devoted "Janeite" (rabid Jane Austen fan, as they have been called since the 1800s, or my personal preference, a “Janeiac”--rhymes with maniac), I take notice of the constant barrage of spinoffs, sequels, prequels, film adaptations and ripoffs that have appeared in the 200 years since the Real Jane penned her six masterpiece novels. Some of these are fitting tributes; some are downright disgraceful. Imagine my delight in discovering a new attempt that not only has great writing that convincingly captures the language, setting and tone of a true Austen novel, but with a plotline containing a new and original twist. Longbourn, by Jo Baker, is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice told from the point of view of the servants. I recall how in my frequent re-readings of the original, I have felt compassion toward Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters for having the misfortune of being born into the gentry without the family income needed to maintain the lifestyle demanded by society. I confess it never occurred to me before that the life of the domestics serving a family struggling to “Keep Up Appearances” on a limited income must have been grim indeed. If you like Jane, or simply enjoy historical fiction, it is an interesting read.

My favorite children’s book of the past year is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. As a child I was fascinated by the names of the colors in my highly prized box of 64 Crayola crayons. I was convinced that they each had their own bright or dark personalities. This turns out to be true in this funny and unique tale of a group of crayons who go on strike—each with their own compelling reason, explained in letters written—in crayon, of course—to the owner of the box. This is an excellent book for kids from 5 to 95.

Virginia McCurry
Information Specialist