My Cousin Caroline
This is, before you rush out and buy it, book six in a ten-book series following on from the events in Pride and Prejudice. This continues the story of minor character Caroline Gardiner, the daughter of the Bennets’ uncle and aunt. This is her story, telling the tale of her refusal to become a dutiful, compliant wife and her career as a forthright reformer, as well as her business sense when her father becomes ill and of course her romance.
This saga is something rather different from the usual run of Austen sequels, taking minor characters and cutting them a story of their own from whole cloth while at the same time including the familiar P&P characters. It is not an easy book to read without reading the others first, and trying to do so is rather akin to being invited to a party where you don’t know anybody. The author (who is Australian) demonstrates a good knowledge of the period and its mores, and Caroline is a modern young woman who wants more than the meager rights that society can give her. This makes it sound rather as though it is just another tale of women’s fight for equality, which is unfair. Austen fans are treated to a novel that contains something of the appeal of the original, while at the same time adding much that is uniquely that of the author as well as plenty of appeal for the modern female reader. I aim to read the whole series.