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Charlotte's Story    by Carolyn Korsmeyer order for
Charlotte's Story
by Carolyn Korsmeyer
Order:  USA  Can
TouchPoint Press, 2021 (2021)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

During her lifetime Jane Austen completed six novels. These beloved books have been read and re-read by millions of Janeites, and many authors have used her original books as take-offs into further adventures of some of the characters. Charlotte’s Story, by Carolyn Korsmeyer, imagines what the life of Elizabeth Bennet's dear friend Charlotte Lucas would have been like after she married William Collins in Pride and Prejudice. The author weaves events from that book into Charlotte's continuing story and provides a realistic picture of her union with the loquacious and boring Mr. Collins, as Charlotte struggled to make a success of that marriage.

Although she was in her late twenties and had never been an attractive girl, Charlotte was intelligent and felt that she was doomed to lead the life of a spinster, dependent on her family for support and subject to demands that she provide any assistance necessary to any of her family members in return for that support. The only jobs that were available to her outside of her family were menial - becoming a governess to children of wealthy parents, working for another family for low wages and long hours was the only paid employment that she could have taken as a gently bred lady. Marriage was the gold standard for all women at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, but no one had ever come close to wanting to marry her, since she came from a family that couldn't provide much of a dowry and was not at all pretty.

After Elizabeth turns down William's awkward proposal, he walks Charlotte home and asks her to marry him, mainly because his benefactress wanted him to marry. Without much of an idea about what would be involved, Charlotte grasps at this chance to have a home and children of her own. She remains calm throughout the early days of her marriage, tuning out much of William's conversational blather, and delighting in becoming mistress of her own home. She is a quiet woman who is helpful and kind to all, gaining the esteem of her servants, and attempting to agree with her husband and follow his lead. She enjoys a visit from her sister and Elizabeth and is delighted when William buys a horse which becomes her horse since he never seems to want to ride it.

This is a delightful take on what women would have had to put up with in marriage in those times. Powerless, Charlotte attempts to be realistic about her choices in life, but after she fails to become pregnant, she starts to look for ways to communicate better with her husband. This leads to a conspiracy between the two of them with happy results. I loved this addition to Austen's books. I've read all six many times over the years, as well as her earlier juvenile works; the books that she had started which have been completed by modern authors; her letters; and most new biographies of Austen, as well as new offshoots of her books. This is one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants more of these characters who were so wonderfully invented by Austen.

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