What to read when you’re not reading Pride and Prejudice…

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Although almost certainly, like me, you’re more than happy to read the six novels over and over again, it’s nice sometimes to fall upon something new to add to the Jane Austen connectors pile.  A new historical novel to me (with definite Pride and Prejudice touches) is by British Columbian writer Vanessa Winn.

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Image from here – Fort William on right. Return of a War Party by Paul Kane (1847)

I found it browsing through Amazon Kindle offers (it’s also available as a paperback) from the excellent Touchwood Press. The Chief Factor’s Daughter mixes fact and fiction for a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read. It’s set in colonial Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island in 1858 and deals with the Work family and their changing society as the fur-trading company’s business interests are joined by the arrival of British men and women come to settle the area and look for gold. The father of five unmarried girls still at home, John Work is the Chief Factor for the Hudson Bay Company of the title, and the story centres on Margaret Work the oldest of his daughters. At 23 years old, she’s in danger of being left on the shelf. Born of a Scots/Irish father and a Métis mother, she belongs to the upper class of the fur-trading society, but has to contend with snobbery and racism from new settlers and military officers sent abroad to protect British interests. Margaret is an appealing, spirited heroine. Like Elizabeth Bennet, she has a close loving relationship with one of her sisters, whilst one of her younger ones is of the tiresomely flirtatious Lydia ilk. Each chapter is headed by an extract from a historical letter or diary and there is an epilogue which satisfyingly fills in the details of what happened next in real life. This is by no means a pastiche of Jane Austen, but the nods in Pride and Prejudice’s direction made it all the more enjoyable for me.

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