Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Norris by Alexa Adams

A newcomer to the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) might be excused from thinking that the great lady only wrote one novel – Pride and Prejudice. The vast majority of works in the world of JAFF focus on Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and for good reason, for theirs is a classic tale, an archetype of the story of mistaken first impressions and the coming together of two very different but complementary souls. Further explorations might lead a reader to variations based Austen’s other works, and such deviations can prove most enriching indeed. For lurking in these other tales are some wonderful stories and a myriad of fascinating and exquisitely-drawn characters.

Of the six published novels Jane Austen left us, Mansfield Park is one of the less-admired and certainly less-fan-fictioned. In many ways this is understandable, for the story of a young girl growing up with much wealthier cousins does not translate as well to modern interpretations, and the protagonist, quiet and retiring Fanny Price, takes a lot longer to get to know and love than the scintillating Elizabeth Bennet or the impulsively romantic Marianne Dashwood.

But this is also a pity, for there is so much in Mansfield Park to stir our emotions and imaginations. I, for one, have rather strong feelings about the novel, and if I ever feel my writing chops are up to the task, I have a story that I’d love to tell. Others with greater skills than my own have also set their pens to exploring and enlarging upon the tale, and Miss Austen has kindly given us a wealth of wonderful characters with whom to spend our times and exercise our creative juices.

One of these characters, all so beautifully and carefully drawn, is Fanny’s vile aunt, Mrs. Norris. She is a most unsympathetic character, full of self-serving schemes and self-aggrandizing manipulations. Not too long ago, talented author Alexa Adams set herself the task of trying to understand Mrs. Norris, to see what led a well-born lady to become so horrid a character.

The result can be seen in Becoming Mrs. Norris: A Mansfield Part Prequel. This is the third instalment of a series of Twisted Austen novellas which Ms. Adams has written in the dark spirit of Halloween. I was not certain what to expect, but to my great delight, I found myself transported by Ms. Adams’ beautiful prose to a world where I (gasp!) actually came to sympathize with the awful aunt. And, with that, here is my review.

Becoming Mrs Norris

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Becoming Mrs. Norris: A Mansfield Park Prequel (Twisted Austen Book 3) by Alexa Adams

Well, I never thought I’d find myself feeling sorry for Mrs. Norris! In her novella Becoming Mrs. Norris, Alexa Adams explores the events that might have created such a nasty woman as Fanny Price’s despised aunt. Set about thirty years before the events of Mansfield Park, this story paints a sad tale of cruelty and sacrifice, and of the spirit and strength required to rise above what life doles out. If we do not end up liking the manipulative aunt from Jane Austen’s novel, we do understand her somewhat better, and perhaps even sympathize with her just a bit.

As always, Ms. Adams’ writing is lovely. (If you haven’t read The Madness of Mr. Darcy, do yourself a favour). The prose flows beautifully from her pen, and her style captures the elegance and wit of Jane Austen’s own. Her characters work well in the story, while remaining true to how they appear in Mansfield Park. They are real and realistic, and you can easily feel you know them as well as the people you meet around town.

If I have criticisms, they are few. The ending seemed somewhat abrupt, and I would have loved some more insight into how poor Miss Ward’s awful experiences as a young woman twisted inside her after what seemed to have been a good marriage to a good man. Still, if you have ever wondered about the nasty creature that is Fanny Price’s aunt, wonder no more and read this story! It’s definitely time well spent.

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For more about Alexa Adams, check out her website at http://alexaadams.blogspot.com/.  There are some fascinating article, neat links, and a bunch of fun things to read.

Becoming Mrs. Norris can be purchased at the usual places, including Amazon (US, Canada, UK).

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