Status: Bookseller Picks
"...that Jane Austen is still alive today — as a vampire."
That's the premise of Jane Bites Back, the clever and highly amusing new novel from Michael Thomas Ford.
Jane Fairfax is the owner of Flyleaf Books, located in a sleepy little town in upstate New York. Jane Fairfax is also a 234-year-old vampire and the author of some of the most beloved works in English literature. Being undead isn't all it's cracked up to be, though. She hasn't seen a royalty check in centuries, while an entire industry cashes in on her fame with sequels, prequels, film adaptations, self-help books, and worst of all… finger puppets. Then, there's Constance, the novel Jane's been trying to publish since before her "death." One hundred sixteen rejection letters later, Jane finally hits on success, but at what price? Her carefully crafted existence is imperiled by the need to tour and promote her book; a scholar who knows Charlotte Brontë a little too well is threatening to expose her; and a mysterious figure from Jane's past returns to haunt her.
From beginning to end, Jane Bites Back was a fun, engaging read. Drawing on both the current vampire craze and the unstoppable wave of "Austenmania" which began with the 1995 adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Ford successfully skewers them both. For readers who love English literature but aren't too sacrosanct about it, there's plenty to enjoy here. In addition to Austen, Lord Byron is a major character (and as big a literary rock star as ever!), serving as both irritant and potential romantic interest. Another major literary figure plays a key role in the novel, but to tell who would be to spoil a deliciously hilarious scene that comes at about the two-thirds mark.
Ford, best known for his gay-themed fiction and non-fiction, successfully makes the jump to 'chick lit' with Jane Bites Back. I've never read him before, but I was sufficiently impressed and entertained that I'm eagerly awaiting the next of his vampire Jane Austen novels, Jane Goes Batty.
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