Good Afternoon everyone,
How is this week treating you? Mine could not have started better!! yesterday I spent a wonderful day at pemberley with the talented Joana Starnes and our dear friend and reader Glynis, and today I will be watching the play All About Eve with Gillian Anderson, whom I’ve loved and admired for more than 20 years, and Lily James who played Elizabeth Bennet in Pride Prejudice & Zombies. Plus, I’m going with Mira Magdo from Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, so I know I’ll be in good company 🙂
Away from my daily life, and on this little corner of the internet, I am pleased to host a writer whose historic knowledge never ceases to amaze me, Riana Everly. Her debut book Teaching Eliza was a big success and it is on my TBR pile for this year, but today she is visiting to talk to you about Through a Different Lens. This book is certainly different from everything you have ever read and it takes courage to write something with this premise, so I hope you like the excerpt and the guest post Ms Everly wrote 🙂
A tale of second glances and second chances
Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the aloof and arrogant Mr. Darcy since he insulted her at a village dance several months before. But an unexpected conversation with a startling turn of phrase suddenly causes her to reassess everything she thought she knew about the infuriating and humourless gentleman.
Elizabeth knows something of people who think differently. Her young cousin in London has always been different from his siblings and peers, and Lizzy sees something of this boy’s unusual traits in the stern gentleman from Derbyshire whose presence has plagued her for so long. She approaches him in friendship and the two begin a tentative association. But is Lizzy’s new understanding of Mr. Darcy accurate? Or was she right the first time? And will the unwelcome appearance of a nemesis from the past destroy any hopes they might have of happiness?
Warning: This variation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice depicts our hero as having a neurological difference. If you need your hero to be perfect, this might not be the book for you. But if you like adorable children, annoying birds, and wonderful dogs, and are open to a character who struggles to make his way in a world he does not quite comprehend, with a heroine who can see the man behind his challenges, and who celebrates his strengths while supporting his weaknesses, then read on! You, too, can learn what wonders can be found when we see the familiar through a different lens.
This is a full-length novel of about 100,000 words.
You can find Through a Different Lens at:
Dr. Benjamin Rush and his philosophy of kindness
I’m delighted to be visiting From Pemberley to Milton today on my blog tour for Through a Different Lens. Thanks, Rita, for hosting me.
In Through a Different Lens, Elizabeth recognizes that Mr. Darcy might not be intentionally cold or arrogant, but might instead have a disability which hinders his ability to function comfortably in social situations. In other words, Mr. Darcy has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of “high-functioning” autism. Armed with this understanding, Lizzy attempts to befriend him, which sets off the action of the story.
Lizzy’s experience with autism comes from working with her young cousin and learning from his governess Miss Pierce, a most capable woman who has studied the works of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813). The name might be familiar to American readers, since he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was not only a politician, though, but also a well-respected physician who changed how mental health issues were seen. In fact, he is known as “father of American psychiatry” for his work with the mentally ill. Although we now know that autism is not a mental illness, but rather a neurological difference, at the time of this novel and when Dr. Rush was writing, people with developmental issues were often treated similarly to the mentally ill.
Rush, who completed his MD at the University of Edinburgh in 1768, believed that mental illness was not a sign of demonic possession or some other weakness of character, but that it had physiological causes (he incorrectly thought it the result of faulty blood circulation in the brain). Therefore, he believed mental illness could be diagnosed and treated. One significant result of this was that he called for the humane treatment of the mentally ill. Rather than condemning these sufferers to a life in Bedlam, or with locks and restraints, he advocated the need for kindness in their treatment.
He also pioneered a therapeutic approach to addiction, claiming the physical properties of alcohol rather than a weakness of character as the cause of alcohol addiction, and interestingly, was one of the first to identify Savant Syndrome when he described the abilities of Thomas Fuller, a slave who was a lightning calculator in 1789. As an interesting footnote to this novel, Savants pair their incredible abilities with some significant neurological or developmental disability, such as autism.
What Elizabeth Bennet and her friend Miss Pierce learned from Dr. Rush, however, is the importance of treating those who are different with a gentle hand and with sympathetic humanity. In other words, Lizzy learned the importance of kindness, and it is with this lesson in mind that she approaches the cold and inscrutable Mr. Darcy.
With Miss de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam holding court, the entire gathering was rather pleasant and Elizabeth found herself enjoying the occasion rather more than she had anticipated, until the door opened once more and Lady Catherine sailed in with Mr. Darcy in her wake. Immediately the atmosphere in the room changed. In the moment it took for Lady Catherine to walk across the room and seat herself in the throne-like chair by the fireplace, Anne returned to the timid and sour creature Elizabeth had first encountered, and Colonel Fitzwilliam’s easy smiles and effortless gallantry became stiff formality and cautious glances. The alteration was sudden, striking and most unpleasant.
Intrigued by the glimpse into Anne’s character when not terrorised by her mother, Elizabeth attempted to continue the conversation the two had been having. Anne answered neatly enough, but it was evident that she was measuring every syllable by what she deemed Lady Catherine would approve. So fascinated was Elizabeth by this phenomenon that she nearly missed overhearing the colonel as he spoke to Mr. Darcy.
“You ought to apologise,” the officer whispered. “I know not exactly what you said to her, but I am certain it was not polite.” There was no response from Mr. Darcy, and as Anne had ceased speaking completely, Elizabeth had little difficulty in hearing the rest of the colonel’s words. “At least walk over and offer her a polite greeting. You can be a boor and have a particular talent for insulting people. Take some initiative to be friendly.”
Elizabeth was struck by the similarity of this conversation with the one she had overheard at that first assembly in Meryton so long ago. This time she did not see Mr. Darcy’s eyes meet hers and then withdraw, but she felt his gaze at the back of her neck as he answered, “I cannot imagine what I have to say to her, and even less what she has to tell me. I am not one to make idle chatter with ladies in my aunt’s parlour. Leave me, Richard, and return to your flirtations.”
As these words dropped from those cruel lips, Elizabeth felt her shoulders stiffen and her entire mien shift, just as that of Anne de Bourgh had transformed with the arrival of Lady Catherine. Colonel Fitzwilliam must have observed this, for he now hissed at his cousin, “Darcy, we must speak. In the steward’s office. Now!” The shuffle of boots across the marble floor told Elizabeth that the two men had left the room, and she resisted the urge to feel the back of her neck to ascertain whether her skin was burning from the intensity of Mr. Darcy’s stare.
Horrid man! He was rude, cruel, uncaring, unthinking… he could not even be bothered to say so much as ‘good afternoon’ to her! Well, it was of little matter to her, for she resolved never to have another word with the arrogant man, just as she was certain he wished never to be in her presence again. That was settled, then. They should suit perfectly! She fretted and stewed as the tea was served, thankful now for Anne’s lack of conversation and for Lady Catherine’s claim on Charlotte’s time.
As quickly as the Collinses and their guests had been summoned to Rosings, so they were dismissed. Between one sip of tea and a nibble of cake, Lady Catherine announced that the party was over and that it was time to depart. To her credit, Anne looked distressed at her mother’s discourtesy, but said nothing, being reduced once more to a shell in the fierce lady’s presence. Elizabeth’s only regret as she took her leave was that she had not been able to converse with the colonel, nor to say good-bye to him. For the rest, she was more than delighted to be out of the house.
What a strange family this was! For all her grand gestures and her elaborate displays of noblesse oblige, Lady Catherine was nothing but a petty tyrant, ruling through fear rather than through respect. The mistress of Rosings might be obeyed, but she was also undoubtedly despised behind many a closed door. How preferable was Elizabeth’s own father, with his middling estate and the goodwill of his tenants, than were Lady Catherine’s great riches and the cowering or scorn of these beholden to her.
Of these, the most poorly done by was Anne, the lady’s own daughter, to whom all the wealth and prosperity of Rosings truly belonged. Although not blessed with fine looks or a hale constitution, those few minutes of candid conversation had proven Miss de Bourgh to have a fine mind and a pleasing manner, which were crushed under her mother’s imperiousness. How the heir to Rosings might have blossomed if only she had been treated with a little kindness!
That word nearly stopped Elizabeth as she walked. Kindness: she had seen the outcome of its lack in Anne de Bourgh; she had seen its liberal application work wonders with Sammy. She had the choice of these, and she chose the latter. It seemed unlikely that Mr. Darcy would deign to be in her presence again—he could not lower himself to deal with one such as she after all—but should the occasion arise, she would strive to be kind. Perhaps one day that cold and cruel man might learn something of the idea and might try some kindness himself. To the unlikelihood of that occurrence, she could only give a bitter laugh.
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
Riana’s second novel, The Assistant, was awarded the Jane Austen Award by Jane Austen Readers’ Awards, and her debut novel, Teaching Eliza, was listed on a list of 2017 Favourite Books on the blog Savvy Verse & Wit. For both of these honours, she is delighted and very proud!
The blog tour is almost over but you can still go back and check all the other stops:
Jan 21 ~ Diary of an Eccentric
Jan 22 ~ Author takeover at Historical Reads and Research with Leila Snow
Jan 23 ~ Rose Fairbanks
Jan 24 ~ Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
Jan 25 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm
Jan 28 ~ So Little Time…So Much to Read
Jan 29 ~ My Love for Jane Austen
Jan 31 ~ Half Agony, Half Hope
Feb 5 ~ From Pemberley to Milton
Feb 6 ~ More Agreeably Engaged
Feb 8 ~ Austenesque Reviews
Riana Everly is giving away five copies of Through a Different Lens to readers world-wide! Just sign up through the Rafflecopter widget to enter.
If you prefer not to use Rafflecopter, send her an email message (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a note on her Facebook page, and she’ll add you to the list for the draw.
Entries close at midnight Eastern time (GMT-5) on February 10, 2019, so the winners have something to read on Valentine’s Day.
Good Luck Everyone!