Originally written in 1913, Old Friends and New Fancies is the first Jane Austen sequel ever written. Ms. Brinton narrows Jane Austen's world so that characters (some good ones, a lot of bad ones) from all six of Ms. Austen's novels become "old friends and new fancies."
The novel taked place three and a half years after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice and shows them in a state of connubial bliss and wishing that state on those nearest and dearest to them, namely Darcy's young sister Georgiana and their cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. The two are engaged, though not happily, and Lizzie encourages Georgiana to end the betrothal rather than be unhappy in her marriage (which was a relief to this reader).
The story then moves on to Bath and Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine, where Colonel Fitzwilliam meets and falls in love with Mary Crawford, from Mansfield Park. Lucy Steele, from Sense and Sensibility, would prefer that Fitzwilliam marry her sister and bandies about a vile tale involving Mary Crawford that succeeds in separating Mary and Fitzwilliam. When Fitzwilliam next sees Mary he is led to believe that she is recently engaged to Sir Walter Elliott, from Persuasion, and he exits heartbroken.
During this time in London, and after, at the homes of Darcy and Mr. Bingley, James Moreland, from Northanger Abbey falls for Lizzy's sister Kitty Bennett. Kitty, however, falls for Lt. William Price, from Mansfield Park, whie Lt. Price falls for Georgiana Darcy. With appearances by Jane and Bingley, from Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Jennings and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ferrars, from Sense and Sensibility, and Emma Knightly, from Emma, it takes a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of heartache before all of the happily ever afters are sorted out.
There is so much happening in this “sequel” that it would take a book report length review to mention all of it. Old Friends and New Fancies lacks the wit and charm of Jane Austen and the plot was plodding in places and a bit difficult to keep up with the cast of thousands. I personally felt that too much substance was given to Jane Austen's more ridiculous characters (i.e. Mrs. Jennings and Sir Walter Elliott).
If Jane Austen had decided to pick up her pen again and bring all of her characters together in a sequel would she have engaged Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is older than Darcy, to his very young cousin Georgiana? Would she have killed off Colonel Brandon, from Sense and Sensibility, to facilitate the move of Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars closer to the Darcys? Would she have portrayed Kitty Bennett as still being unbearably flighty and capricious after three and half years of her older sisters' influence? I would like to think not.
If one hasn't read all of Jane Austen's works more than once, or at least very recently, readers are likely to get lost in all of the names and references to past events. Old Friends and New Fancies isn't a bad book, but I couldn't even remotely believe that this was a Jane Austen story, or that this is what she would have wanted for her characters. If you are a Jane Austen purist, as the majority of us are, you will most likely be - as I was - disappointed in this "sequel."