Janeites generally regard Austen sequels with ambivalence if not hostility.
However a meeting with an Australian writer who has recently published a sequel to Pride and Prejudice proved to be informative, entertaining and exhilarating.
A lifelong journalist and editor, Carrie Kablean, felt very strongly that Kitty was badly miscast in both the 1995 television and 2001 movie versions of the book.
Journalism work was drying up so Carrie decided upon a bold experimental project. She wanted to give Kitty a life.
“She couldn’t be that stupid, after all, she was a Bennet,” she pointed out.
Having a teenage daughter of a similar age gave her further material and understanding.
She was determined to make Kitty feel confident within herself. She wanted to rescue her.
However, Carrie also realised would be “standing on the shoulders of a giant.” She created a back story, based on the little information we have about Kitty, to develop her Kitty character. And she determined to keep the tone of Austen’s work, including some kind of romantic interest. A crisis would occur two thirds of the way through her novel.
Carrie’s only starting point was that she realised that Kitty and Georgiana Darcy were a similar age, so she decided it would be good to get them together so that they could become best friends. Carrie believed this to be feasible as they had much in common both being emotionally lonely, shy and withdrawn.
With a strong love of research and also of London where she was born, her next move was to travel there where she went on a steep learning curve as well as “going down some rabbit holes.”
Her discovery that London in 1813 to 1814 experienced a particularly dire winter provided the backdrop for part of the story. The relevant families visiting London at about the same time were confined inside due to extremely heavy fogs lasting for two weeks followed by heavy snowfalls. Part of the Thames froze over between Blackfriars and London Bridge which enabled a traditional Frost Fair to be held on the ice. However, in her story, this could only happen after an elephant had been employed to test the strength of the ice cover, providing a point of excitement for Kitty and the Gardiner children.
Initially Kitty’s musical talent is encouraged in the Bingley London home with Mr Bingley taking her to concerts. He also engaged a music teacher for her who coincidentally tutors Miss Darcy. This teacher helps to inspire her confidence in her abilities.
Eventually invited to Pemberley, her friendship with Georgiana Darcy is cemented. However a crisis occurs for which she gets unfairly accused. Not surprisingly, Lydia is involved in the background. We won’t give the plot away – but remember that this in an Austen-inspired story so it all works out in the end.
Carrie writes her heartfelt thanks to Jane Austen: “She is incomparable, of course, and this novel a mere homage. I only hope that, were she able to read it, she would not be too vexed at this trespass into her world.”
What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean reveals a very thorough and deep knowledge of Jane Austen’s work and life. Convincing characters play out an entirely original plot.
Carrie also shared a bit about her publishing journey. She came close to finding an Australian publisher, but in the end it fell through, and she was able to find a hybrid publisher, Red Door Publishing, in England. She is currently working hard on marketing her book, as authors with independent and hybrid publishers need to do, while also working on her next work of historical fiction. It is also set in Georgian England, and springs from a family she imagines for What Kitty did next, but it will, she said, be a bit darker than What Kitty did next.
The meeting concluded with our regular secret quote and quiz, and a reminder about our Jane’s birthday and Xmas lunch on Saturday 15 December.
We also agreed on the schedule for the beginning of 2019:
- January: No meeting
- February: Read a book by one of Jane’s favourite authors. Maria Edgeworth
- March: Discuss why Jane Austen was so popular in the trenches (WW1)