Last year I had the pleasure to read and review Ivy Stuart May’s debut JAFF novel, Becoming Elizabeth, which I absolutely loved! Today I am thrilled to share that she’s back here at Just Jane 1813 with a new JAFF story and this one is based on Austen’s beloved story, Persuasion. (It has a lovely cover too!)
I invited Mrs. Stuart to share with my readers two excerpts from her story; one that focuses on the hero and heroine, Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, and another excerpt that focuses on a supporting character in her story, Elizabeth Elliot.
Please allow me to welcome back Ivy Stuart May to Just Jane 1813!
‘Persuasion’ was the last novel that Jane Austen wrote and the first book of hers that I ever read. Today, even though I have read and re-read all of her novels, it remains my favourite.
Is it the fact that the major theme illustrates so well the subtle emotional pressures from family and society that most women experience and must struggle against, if they ever want to truly be themselves?
Or is it simply the vision of a once submissive Anne Elliot breaking free of her bonds, standing firmly but politely on her own principles at last that makes me love the quietly joyous message of this book?
I think that both are true but there is something more – an air of mystery to ‘Persuasion’ that appeals to the writer in me.
Why, I have wondered, did Austen sketch a leading character that at first is so mild, so accepting of the humiliation that is her daily portion? We all know that real change seldom occurs in mature adults and Jane Austen was always a realist; but although there are many clues, Austen leaves the reader to draw her/his own conclusions about the reasons for the internal transformation, the self-confidence that begins to appear in Anne Elliot as the novel progresses.
Then there is the enigma that is Captain Wentworth. What drives him to enter into a serious relationship with Louisa and yet write the following in a letter to Anne: “I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”
Exploring these mysteries led me into rich emotional territory. ‘Disturbing the Dust’ is the outcome and the story of the ripening of Anne and Wentworth’s great love. It explores not only the basis of their passion for each other, but their emotional growth too.
Here’s the book blurb:
“Captain Wentworth at the age of thirty two could have his pick of the young ladies of the district, while Anne Elliot at twenty seven, must quietly accept her place on the shelf.”
Eight years have passed since Anne Elliot’s engagement to Frederick Wentworth ended in bitterness. Spinsterhood and a life of obscurity are her daily reality, and then she is struck a powerful blow: the loss of the Elliot’s ancestral home, her beloved Kellynch Hall. Having squandered much of their wealth, the aristocratic Elliots are forced to move out and hand control over to the unpretentious Admiral Croft, and this just as a newly wealthy Captain Wentworth returns to the area.
MUCH CAN HAPPEN TO A MAN IN EIGHT YEARS:
Wentworth has been at sea, fighting the war against France. He returns a much harder man, for whom marriage is no longer about love but about his comfort and convenience. He is determined to show those who humiliated him just how much times have changed.
WHILE LITTLE CHANGES FOR THOSE WHO REMAIN BEHIND:
For Anne Elliot the years have taken their toll. A faded beauty, she is frequently ignored or passed over as she silently bears witness to the lives of others. Everyone around her is comfortable, used to the old Anne…
But what would happen if all that were to change?
Below is an excerpt from ‘Disturbing the Dust’ in which Wentworth begins to realise that he has made a giant mistake.
On the beach a stiff wind blew, but it was Anne’s first encounter with the sea and she was entranced. Without pausing, she left the others behind and holding onto her bonnet, hurried over the shingle until she reached the very edge of the shore. Here, approaching and retreating washes of clear water frilled and percolated in and around the tiny pebbles.
“Anne,” she heard Mary’s voice call on the wind. “Don’t go too near the edge, the sea water will ruin your boots.”
‘Oh! Leave her be, Mary,” Charles’ exasperated voice responded. “She is an adult. Not everyone must do your bidding, you know. You might not like the sea; but at least allow your sister the experience, if she wishes it.”
Anne stood there for a few minutes completely oblivious to everything around her, watching the waves lining up out at sea and advancing towards the shore; marvelling, as the glassy walls crashed and broke against the stone harbour wall, sending spouts of pure white foam into the air.
“You have chosen a good day for your first visit to the sea,” she was surprised to hear Captain Wentworth’s strong voice say, over the roar of the waves.
She turned to see him standing with Louisa and Henrietta a few paces back.
“Oh! It is magnificent. So wild. So much of it. There are really no words. How you must love being a sailor,” she said impulsively. And for the first time, her face was enlivened and he saw the Anne of old.
He met her shining eyes and felt a compulsion to speak.
“When the sea is friendly, there is nothing better; but in times of storm, when your ship rides one mountainous wave after another; when you hear the timbers groan and look above you to see the top of the next giant wave curling, threatening to fall on your little boat and dash her to pieces, then the sea is a fearsome thing. Then you wonder why you ever became a sailor.”
“Ah! But consider the alternative. Consider the lives of those of us who exist only to dabble about in the shallows.” She smiled and turned away to speak to the two younger women.
“Now, Louisa, Henrietta, hold onto your bonnets and let us race each other back to Mary and Charles. It’s getting late and we will cause them to miss their dinner,” she said.
Wentworth fell in behind them. His coat whipped about him and he held his hat firm against wind as, deep in thought, he slowly navigated the stony shore.
So, he thought, this was what he had striven so hard to forget. ________________________________________________________________________
In writing this book, I have also had some fun working with the secondary characters like Elizabeth Elliot. To my mind, she would make a splendidly fiery heroine for any one of a number of bodice rippers. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to round her out a little more and then give her a destiny of her own.
Below is an excerpt from ‘Disturbing the Dust’ in which Elizabeth Elliot is just about to discover that her friend, the obsequious Penelope Clay, has eloped with William Elliot.
Elizabeth shifted impatiently as the clock in the hallway chimed the half hour. Where was everyone? Her father had been a little worse for the wear last night, so it was entirely possible that he had breakfasted in his room – in which case she wouldn’t see him before luncheon. But eleven o’clock had come and gone and still Penelope (admittedly a late riser) had not put in an appearance.
Elizabeth was beginning to feel ill-used. This was just a little too inconsiderate of Penelope. After all, she had come to Bath as Elizabeth’s companion; yet last night she had been completely distracted and had inexplicably gone missing on several occasions during the ball. Was it too much to expect her friend and companion to be present now and then: especially as her sister couldn’t be bothered to keep her company either?
Annoyance began to rise in Elizabeth’s throat. She took to pacing up and down to relieve her frustration, until a movement in the hallway caught her eye.
“Phillips,” she called imperiously. “Please have a maid sent up to Mrs. Clay’s room and request her to join me in the parlour for morning tea… at her earliest convenience.” (The last four words were delivered in an emphatic staccato.)
The instruction given, Elizabeth fell to pacing again, until her thoughts were interrupted by the upstairs maid knocking timidly at the dining room door.
“Well! Where is Phillips? Has he informed Mrs. Clay that I am awaiting her pleasure?”
The housemaid bobbed a curtsey. “Please Ma’am. She ain’t there, Ma’am.”
Elizabeth spoke curtly over her shoulder, “How many times must I instruct the staff in this house to address me as Miss Elliot?” She paused and then asked in a surprised voice, “What do you mean, she’s not there? When did she go out?”
“As to that, Ma’am…er…Miss Elliot, no one knows. But all her clothes is gone. All her shoes…everything,” the maid said, dramatically casting her large eyes heavenward and wringing her hands.
Elizabeth eyed her with irritation. “Yes, well let’s not turn this into a side-show,” she snapped. “Was anything left in the room – a note perhaps?”
“Oh! yes Ma’am. There be a letter lying on her pillow.”
“Well, go and fetch it, you idiot!”
The maid spun around and bolted out of the door, colliding with the butler as he came in and announced in a portentous voice, “Mr. Francis Beaumont to see Miss Elliot.”
Elizabeth felt her legs weaken. “Is everyone gone mad in this house?” she asked the butler in a fierce whisper. “We are in the middle of a crisis here, Phillips. Do you want the entire world to know our troubles? Tell Mr. Beaumont that I am not at home to visitors this morning!”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Francis Beaumont, who was already standing in the doorway. “Is there anything I can do to be of assistance?”
Thank you for sharing these excerpts, Ivy. I think Persuasion fans are going to have a great time reading this book and I know I look forward to delving into this book too!
Ivy May Stuart was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She attended school in Natal, a province of South Africa and the setting for her first novel ‘An Unreasonable Woman’. She was educated at the University of South Africa for both undergraduate and post-graduate studies and taught English and History to high school pupils. She sees those years as significant preparation for writing an historical novel.
“At the time, my students were of school-leaving age and I was alerted to the absolute lack of interest in the Women’s Rights Movement amongst young girls. A typical reaction when the topic is raised is a sort of mild embarrassment. Very few girls are aware of, or interested in the long history of the women’s movement and just how difficult the struggle has been. It frightened me to think that our hard-won rights and freedoms could be eroded if women are not vigilant. From time to time we need to be reminded just how tough life has been and can be for women.”
Readers also met Ivy Stuart May in my March 2016 interview.
Today we are offering a giveaway for my Just Jane 1813 readers, as I have two ebooks of Disturbing the Dust for my Just Jane 1813 readers. To enter our giveaway please leave a comment on this blog and tell us what you love about Persuasion, no later than midnight, ET, on March 12th. The winners will be announced on this blog on March 13, 2017.
I’d like to thank Ivy May Stuart for writing a new Persuasion variation for JAFF readers and for visiting with my readers! I know many readers will love reading a new story based on Austen’s final novel!
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