Review: Much Ado About Persuasion by Barbara Cornthwaite
Synopsis: Shakespeare meets Austen when the Elliots of Kellynch are embroiled in a scheme of deception and revenge. The meek and gentle daughter Anne falls for the dashing Captain Wentworth, sharp-tongued Elizabeth clashes wits with Admiral Baldwin, and Mrs. Clay becomes a pawn in William Elliot’s dastardly plans when the beloved characters of Persuasion are matched with the intense plot of Much Ado About Nothing.
What I Loved: I must confess, I’ve never read/watched Much Ado About Nothing, so the entire plot of this novel was a mysterious adventure for me—and I quite enjoyed that. I was reunited with the characters of Persuasion (the first Austen novel I ever read, which I for the life of me cannot quite remember as well as I wish I could…), but their story was so much more different! In a good way, of course. I believe Austen and Shakespeare both would be pleased with how well Cornthwaite handled the elements of their stories!
On that note, Cornthwaite did make Austen’s characters a little more vivid and black-and-white (which sounds like an oxymoron, but I simply mean that everyone’s motives and personalities were clearer than in Persuasion). I appreciated it, but naturally it meant that Austen’s intentions and themes were gone from the story. (So was Wentworth’s letter at the end...which was a HUGE heartbreak.)
I absolutely loved seeing more of characters like Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay, Admiral Baldwin, etc.! Elizabeth and Baldwin quickly became my favorites, and their love story was so fun and sweet! (A little unrealistic and morally grey, but precious all the same.) Cornthwaite wrote their arcs perfectly and combined them with Much Ado’s plotline seamlessly! Not to mention the addition of the redemption themes, which was my favorite part.
And the ending? Even without the letter, it was still fabulous—happy endings galore, y’all! And that last line? OMGOSH I SQUEALED YOU GUYS. Seriously. Cornthwaite needs to write a sequel, because she left this open for the PERFECT Austen mashup. I can’t even, you guys.
Finally, we come to the writing. I was absolutely astounded by how Austen-esque the writing was in the first few chapters. Granted, it read more like Pride and Prejudice than it did Persuasion (Austen’s prose was significantly changed between the two), but I know Austen would’ve been proud. That said, it did start to take on a voice of its own as the story went on and it lost that Austen edge...but I still loved the writing and thought it fit the era perfectly! Since the story is written from the omniscient point-of-view, there was a lot of head-hopping—but it was written as it should be and was completely smooth; both immersive and narrative at the same time without being jarring!
What I Didn’t Love: I really only have one qualm: the pacing. I felt like, in some ways, the story moved too fast and characters such as Anne were passed over. Now, it didn’t stick out until the ending—which was certainly rushed—and I didn’t mind getting deep into the characters of Elizabeth, Baldwin, Borlock, and Penelope, but after finishing the story, it was noticeable that the ending was rather abrupt (I needed an epilogue) and a few things were rushed up.
Apart from that, I would’ve liked clearer faith content, but I do appreciate how the Christian elements in the story were authentic, subtle, and consistent to the original stories, in that neither Shakespeare’s nor Austen’s works were explicitly Christian.
Long Story Short: This Shakespearean twist on a beloved Austen classic will leave readers hungry for more! Cornthwaite admirably meshed Persuasion’s characters with Much Ado About Nothing’s plot and crafted a well-written, well-developed, engaging story that did its inspirations justice! I would certainly recommend to lovers of Shakespeare and Austen alike, romance connoisseurs, Regency buffs, and his-fic fans; and I would love to read more in the future!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author through Celebrate Lit Publicity. All opinions expressed are my own.
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about the author
Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her six children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.
a word from the author
I discovered Jane Austen in college when I was required to read Pride and Prejudice. This was in the dark ages before the famous adaptations, and I knew nothing about the storyline. In fact, I expected it to be depressing, probably because the title sounded similar to War and Peace. It was a delightful surprise to be charmed by the novel, and I went on to read all Austen’s other books on my own. Each of them have a special place in my heart. I love Emma so much that I wrote a two-book parallel novel for it (the George Knightley, Esquire series). I also have novellas based on Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma in the A Very Austen anthologies. This book, however, is the first thing I’ve written based on Persuasion.
Shakespeare I met in high school, and furthered my acquaintance with him in college. Much Ado About Nothing is, I think, my favorite of his plays (although there are several close contenders for the top spot). His grasp of character is unmatched, and his language, even after five hundred years, is striking.
Mixing the stories of these two authors has been great fun, and redeeming a couple of characters who didn’t learn anything from their mistakes in the original stories gives my version a spiritual twist. I hope you enjoy it!
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And, of course, one mustn't forget that with every Celebrate Lit tour comes...you guessed it! A giveaway! Enter at the link below for your chance to win the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of Much Ado About Persuasion!
What do you think of a Shakespeare + Austen mashup? Have you read anything by either of these classic authors? Does Much Ado About Persuasion sound right up your alley? Let me know in the comments below! (I love saying that. *winks*)