I liked it. I’m not certain that I would go so far as to say that I loved it, but I really, truly liked it. And I was bitter at having to put it down a few times today to clean the house and what not. That is a good sign.

The Family Fortune (the cover on the hardback is much prettier, more elegant, and more harmonious with the actual book) is a modern retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen, and it does a fabulous job. I’ve seen a couple of fan fic type Persuasion stories that do odd things with the character of Mr. Elliot (the junior one who wants Anne) since he is “family” but hot to trot for Anne, as was totally normal in olden times, but really icky these days. The author has thoughtfully updated every aspect of this story.

I typically don’t care for changing the characters’ names. I usually feel like it’s a coverup–they aren’t yours, we know they aren’t yours, so don’t try to pee on them by making Elizabeth Bennet into Gloria Beauvais, for example. In this story, it worked. Anne Elliot is transformed into Jane Fortune. One of the things I think Horowitz does a really excellent job at is making Jane into the spinster (in her very late 30s) that Austen made Anne. Too many Persuasion knock offs put Jane in her mid to late twenties, and frankly that’s just not the “hopeless” state that Austen had in mind for Anne Elliot.

Horowitz is rather inventive and departs from the more canonical story by making the Captain Wentworth character (in this version: Max Wellman) actually get his start on his fortune and career success directly from Jane’s influence. Jane has a foundation she establishes on behalf of their family that puts out a literary review.  She’s a raging success and doesn’t realize it. She’s a classic shrinking violet, and you love her to pieces. Max is the same idiot that Wentworth is when he first reappears on the scene–hellbent on causing a little pain for Jane as she hurt him all those years ago.

Jane grows to be more independent than Anne in this version, but I think it’s more of Horowitz’s very clever updating of this story: there are simply more ways we would expect to see Jane break away from her family.

There were two characters that I questioned in this version: first is that of Captain Benwick (Basil in this version) and second is the younger Mr. Elliot (Guy in this one). Basil isn’t sympathetic in the slightest. He’s a little too full of himself. I never had the impression that Benwick was anything other than a man unfortunate enough to feel too deeply. Basil is just a self-absorbed “tortured” artist. I guess I’ve always felt that if things hadn’t worked out with Anne and Wentworth, Benwick would have made Anne a deserving second place (for a FABULOUS fan fic of that plot line read: Love Suffers Long and Is Kind–don’t read it if you can’t stomach watching Wentworth marry Louisa). By the end of the story, I felt like the characterization of Guy was fine. Maybe the writing thing could have come out sooner?? I don’t know. It was slightly off, but he was definitely the right blend of charm and creepy persistence.

My biggest beef with this book is the overly short chapters that seem grouped together in chunks of the book. It made those areas a wee-bit choppy.

Overall, this is a great Austen fan-fic and well worth the read. From what I was able to find, it seems like this is Ms. Horowitz’s first book, and I hope that she is currently being inspired and that we’ll have something else from her soon, Austen or not.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, if I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice first, discovered that Darcy was the perfect man, and that in my more inspired moments, I am Elizabeth Bennet, Persuasion would easily have been my favorite Austen book. In fact, if I leave my sentimentality out of it, Persuasion is my favorite. It was Austen’s last complete work, and you can see her maturity, her thoughtfulness. The story is rich, the emotions of the characters completely full. It’s a treat to see Austen deal with the theme of regret so beautifully.