The Value of an Anne Elliot

A must-read for all Austen lovers, this story is sure to captivate and excite. Full of intrigue and surprise, with characters old and new, historical and fictional, the story never fails to delight!

War looms- Napoleon has escaped exile on Elba, and is massing an army on the Prussian border. Captain Frederick Wentworth must answer the call of duty, leaving Anne at Kellynch with the Crofts. His absence is a trial to Anne, but she must deal with further tragic news from the front, family scandals, and the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford (the infamous brother sister duo from Austen's Mansfield Park) who wreak even more havoc in their wakes.

Anne's enduring qualities of sensibleness and gentle good nature are severely tested as events at Kellynch, Bath and across the English channel, force her to confront her fears and endure the thought of loss of all that is dear to her.

Anne is put through many trials, but will her second chance at love survive war, scandal and bitter tragedy?

Kate's latest novel, The Value of an Anne Elliot, is set to captivate the most exacting and dedicated Austen fans. This sequel to Jane Austen's enduring love story 'Persuasion' takes off where Persuasion left off, shortly after Anne and Wentworth have married. 

The Value of an Anne Elliot” by Kate Westwood receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that most lovers of Jane Austen wish sincerely that she had written more than the six masterpieces she has left for us. Over the decades, many authors have put pen to paper in an attempt to add to the corpus of Austenesque fiction, some more successfully than others

Kate Westwood is one of the successful ones.

In The Value of an Anne Elliot, Ms. Westwood has given us a glimpse of what might have come after the Happily Ever After of Austen’s final novel, Persuasion. After the eight years of separation, after Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth were thrown back together, after that beautiful, heartbreakingly poignant letter, after they finally confessed their undying love for one another, what happened then?

Persuasion is the only one of Austen’s novels that has a definite timeline. We are told, on the first page, when each of the main characters was born, and we know that the events of the novel occur very shortly before Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his final attempt to regain his empire. Wentworth, as a military man, would surely have been somehow involved in the events around Waterloo. What happened then?

Also in Bath are Anne’s father and older sister Elizabeth, who have been charmed by the arrival in their lives of two beautiful young people, namely Mary and Henry Crawford. Yes, indeed, these are the Crawfords from Mansfield Park, and here some elements of the two novels are interwoven.

When tragedy strikes and when the household is thrown into disarray by the arrival of a young niece embroiled in more than a touch of scandal, Anne finds herself in the midst of far less tranquillity than she expected when she married her gallant captain. With her calm sense and discerning mind, she must put her personal concerns aside to be of the greatest service possible to those she calls family.

In her own beautiful style, the author has carried Jane Austen’s characters into her own novel intact. All are quite true to themselves, completely recognizable from their origins. Anne Elliot (now Wentworth) is dependable and sensible, helping others even when she, herself, could use some caring for; Frederick is constant and devoted, doing his duty to the Crown while aching to return home to his Anne. The Crofts are the friendly and welcoming people we met in Persuasion, and Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot are as self-absorbed as Ms. Austen made them.

Ms. Westwood has, perhaps, taken a few liberties with the characters from Mansfield Park, but they, too, are little changed in essentials: charming, elegant, and scheming. They are, in their own way, one
of the highlights of this novel.

The original characters are equally well drawn. Young Julia Wentworth is exactly the disobedient and grumpy teenager we roll our eyes at in our everyday lives, for example, a bit rude, a lot sullen, and in need of a good lesson.

The plot is creative and absorbing, without straying from the style and sensibilities of the era. The various threads are woven in with a deft hand, all interesting in their own rights, and coming together beautifully at the end. Ms. Westwood also makes excellent use of the very real political events of June,1815, as Wentworth finds himself in Brussels on the evening of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball and the terrible battle of Waterloo. These historic events are not thrust into the centre of the narrative, but frame it in a natural and organic way.

And I cannot say enough about Ms. Westwood’s beautiful prose. Her writing is fluid and graceful, and pays homage to the witty elegance that emanated from Austen’s own pen. She is a worthy successor to the great English author.

As beautifully written and skilfully crafted as this novel is, however, there were some editing issues that detracted somewhat from my total enjoyment of it. These are not typographical errors, of which there are few, if any. Rather, there are some inconsistencies in the timeline and dating that had me flipping back to earlier chapters to see if I was mis-remembering something, or if I had read it wrong the first time. There are also spelling inconsistencies in some characters’ names. These slips are particularly bothersome when the person concerned is a historical character, rather than a purely fictional one. A good editor should have caught these issues before publication, and they do pull the reader out of the story when they occur.

Still, the entirety of the novel is delightful. For readers of Austen who wish she had written more, or for people wondering what the fuss about Austen is anyway, but who have never read her, this is a great story. It has sweetness and sadness and a bit of intrigue, all wrapped up in the envelop of an enduring love through a period of separation, with real historical events as the stamp on the wax seal. It is easy to read, and every word is a delight.

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