Who would have thought that Dame McCullough would disappoint me?
I am a huge fan of Colleen McCullough! A neuroscientist, who taught and researched at Yale for nine years, she began to write and soon made a name for herself as a writer. Her early novels included Tim and The Thorn Birds, both deeply emotional books with a wide sweep. The Thorn Birds was a saga that wove life in the Australian outback and the Roman Catholic church into a heady mix of intrigue, politicking, and romance. Only in An Indecent Obsession did she turn to her medical training for a backdrop. She then topped (by a lot!) the achievement of these earlier books with the Masters of Rome series. Extensively researched, and written in a way that brought ancient Rome alive as it never was before, each book told a thrilling tale. The series started with Gaius Marius, through Cornelius Sulla, the demise of Julius Caesar, and ended with the final war of the Roman Republic. This seven book series makes McCullough a genius in my book.
So when I came across her retooling of the Misses Bennet, I thought I was in for a rare treat. However, the “romance” between Elizabeth and Darcy was turned into a subjugation of Lizzie by Darcy, and the “ugly” Mary Bennet got a makeover to become a beautiful and desirable woman who also gave up her silly and vacuous ways and became intelligent!
I prefer to keep my Austen tales unsullied by such reworkings. Stephanie Barron has taken on the challenge of depicting Jane Austen’s times and the (we suppose) inquisitiveness and intelligence of Austen, by turning her into a detective! Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery – proved to be much more satisfying than Miss McCullough’s take on Austen.
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