Welcome, Leigh! I'm glad to have you back for a visit!
In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight. Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?
Janet asked me to write about something I particularly like or enjoy writing about. Considering I spend the vast majority of my writing time writing speech notes and assessments as a speech pathologist, I didn’t think that would be of any particular interest to anybody (except maybe Karen M Cox—Speech path shout out!). Something I do enjoy that may be of interest in the Austen space is the influence of war on Jane Austen and, additionally, of Jane Austen on war.
Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817. The American Revolution began the same year in 1775 and ended when Jane was eight in 1783. The war of Britain against Napoleon started in 1799 and ended in 1815. At it’s peak in 1804, approximately one-fourth of military age men joined volunteers to fight against Napoleon. Simultaneously, the War of 1812 raged against the United States from 1812-1815. The number of British war dead alone in that time period is approximately 345,000 or around 4% of the total population of Britain in 1801. Famously, two of her brothers were in the Navy, while another was in the militia. Her sister Cassandra’s fiancé served as curate on a ship in the Navy and died of a fever in 1798.
While Jane Austen’s day-to-day life was relatively unaffected by violence taking place across the Channel, it was nevertheless influenced. Her writing, characters, and themes of her novels reflect its influence with militia, Navy men, Army officers, etc. While most of her writing appears to be romance, she also highlights social structure changes made by
Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Janeites” to highlight Jane’s impressive influence on veterans in World War I. In 1942, during WWII, Penguin published special editions of Northhanger Abbey and Persuasian to be sent to the troops. Jane Austen has a power to connect men and women of all social standings and across more than two hundred years. Her books and words are powerful reminders that people are all the same and can connect through conquering pride and prejudice.
Like Jane, we have lived in a world which has been in a constant state of war. Depending on your age, the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War and Bosnia to the Global War on Terror (which has lasted nearly twenty years), I have been in a country at war for most of my life and certainly all of my adult life. Jane Austen’s works and JAFF in general have helped me through deployments, temporary deployments, moving across the country six times (while pregnant four of those moves and with a six week old one of them), late nights and early mornings alone.
I know many men and women who leave their families each morning and are actively participating in a war zone by the afternoon. Today only 1.7% of Americans serve in the military—a huge change from the 25%+ in Austen’s time, but the things that unite us are the same as they once were. A love of country and a willingness to serve…that free college and solid housing plan and healthcare sure doesn’t hurt to the Wickham-types of the world.
Jane Austen has a power to her writing that is interesting for an author. At once she is satirical, funny, romantic, smart, and authoritative without ever letting on that her writing is any of those things. How many articles have been written about how Pride and Prejudice is more than a romance? To me, Jane Austen and works inspired by her are a simple (and complex) comfort in a time of war.