I've been out of commission for a while, working on the JASNA 2023 AGM in Denver, which was November 3-5, but with tours going out on November 2 and 6 as well. Since I was the regional tour coordinator this year, I've been a bit busy.
The AGM itself was terrific, with my favorite plenary speaker being Janet Todd, who talked about Pemberley and place, Gilpin and fishing, and Austen's ability to be succinct where Fielding and Richardson could not. After the lecture, I promptly went to the Emporium and bought Todd's novel, Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden, which I hope to read early in 2024.
Other talks of note were Inger Brody's lecture "West of Austen," in which she talked about Owen Wister's incorporation of Austen into his novel, The Virginian, and Rebecca Dickson's discussion of cognitive dissonance and other aspects of the psychology of belief that are a major part of Pride and Prejudice. I also really enjoyed Melanie Hayden's discussion of the various ways Elizabeth Bennet has been adapted in the many retellings of P&P.
Despite all the AGM work, I am happy to report that I did not neglect my reading.
What Have I Been Reading?
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles - I finally got around to reading this and kept asking the question, what took me so long? It was absolutely terrific. Clearly a 5-star book, not only for the gorgeous writing but for the craft involved in telling such a sweeping story in such a confined space. The ending is so incredibly satisfying that I was moved to tears of joy.
The Whalebone Theatre, by Joanna Quinn - this is one of those rare books that I bought based on its cover. I was in a bookstore in Blue Hill, ME on vacation in September and was intrigued by the title and cover. I loved it--another 5-star book that has fantastic characters and a riveting story. I loved Cristabel, her half-sister Flossie, and her cousin Digby. I loved watching them grow up, and I loved the people they became. Set in Devon, full of theatrics during the time between the wars, and then focused on WWII and the resistance in France. So good!
That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo - another super interesting, poignant novel with great writing, complex characters, and marvelous setting, this time Cape Cod, hence the title. A novel about marriage and how one's parents can affect and influence you even when you think you've left them far behind. Lots to think about in this story.
The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd - a novel about a real woman who almost single-handedly introduced the cultivation of indigo to the American colonies. On the one hand, this was a difficult topic because the economy of the South became so dependent on slavery and so it was hard to cheer for a woman whose work magnified that dependence and the subsequent suffering and inhumanity of slavery. And, like with Gone With the Wind, slavery was softened so that its brutality was not really portrayed. That said, I did like reading about how Eliza Lukas experimented with the indigo seeds she obtained as she, with the help of some of the slaves, figured out how to turn it into a cash crop.