Often books of a type do seem to pop up one after the other. Sometimes this is a nice thing–I had a month spell of finding Richard III in almost every book I picked up. Other times, it can lead to a run of bothersome books, or frustrated reading.
These books aren’t quite either of those things. Actually, it’s the fact that I’m pretty ambivalent about all three which lead me to group them.
For instance, Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl was recommended to me by my friend B. as a very Maureen-y book. And YES, and no. It was so satisfying to finally read an Austenesque book that, purely on the level of language, sounded like Austen*. So often I’ve tried to read a Regency book and liked the story okay but been entirely put off by the wrongness of the language. I’m quite aware that this is a personal issue, but I think my poetry-trained ear just can’t handle it.
On the other hand, Althea, the narrator and main character, is not really like Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliott (my favorite Austen girls). Rather, she’s like Emma, but with less power. Matchmaking and scheming for herself and her stepsisters, she regards love as a folly and a good income as the only qualification for a husband. And, to be very slightly spoilerish, she never seems to change. Though events might seem to prove me wrong, I couldn’t buy into them because there was so little build-up. It seemed that I was supposed to take this revolutionary change of heart on trust.
The other book I’ve heard Keeping the Castle compared to is I Capture the Castle, a definite personal favorite. I can see it on a superficial level, but KtC lacks the immediacy of Cassandra’s worries, her loves and sorrows.
* Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell also nails the language, but what Susanna Clarke is doing there is not really Austenesque.