This is an ingenious wee tome I stumbled across back in 1996 or ‘97 at Our Lady of The Lake University in San Antonio. Well, not so much stumbled, as knelt down by a book shelf and there it was. But my knees are not the issue here. I was enthralled with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the time. The Colin Firth/Elizabeth Ehle version had come out in 1995 on A&E, which lead me to read the novel three times between 95 and 96. Don’t even ask me how much money I spent renting the VHS tapes from Blockbuster! Oy vey! I also had a crush on Jeremy Northam/Gwyneth Paltrow’s movie EMMA. The 1990s were a golden decade for, amazingly, those specific authors. ADAM BEDE, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, MIDDLEMARCH, MILL ON THE FLOSS all ran on Masterpiece Theatre. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, with its incessant bowing and a screenwriting Oscar for Emma Thompson, PERSUASION with the dashing Cieran Hinds, Ah, them were grand days, they were. Now? Ugh.
So when I saw this book, it was better than finding money on the sidewalk. It was better than discovering a gem. This book was – IS – the answer to a prayer. It’s PLOTS! To Austen! Eliot! THE BRONTES! O Glorious day! O frabjous day! My copy, however, is NOT the one from the OLLU library. But man, was I ever tempted!!! I went straight to it every time I went to the library for two years. Then one day…NOOOOOOOOOO! Yeah, it was gone. Like an obsessed fool, I looked for it up and down the shelves. Nothing. When I asked questions, all I got was blank looks. F@#$! I should have taken it when I had the chance.
Then one day, at Half-Price Books on Broadway, the clouds parted, rays of pure white sunlight shone through and lit on this book on the shelf. The books on either side had no topical relation to this one. It seemed to have just been stuck there randomly. And yet, out of all the books on all the shelves, there it was – for me. It wanted me to find it. It wanted to be mine. Of this, I have no doubt.
The beauty of this book is that it is exactly what it says it is. Plot abstracts. But just because they are abstracts does not mean they are brief. No way. These are full-on, f#$%-off narrative summaries of the stories. Better than Cliff’s Notes because they don’t tell you what to think or what’s supposed to be important. They just give you a run-down of the particulars and you decide for yourself. So simple. So needed. There are several other books of this series, but the selection of authors doesn’t have the particular cache of this group. This is and old book – published in 1976. I think it needs to be revived. They should do a volume for Hemingway, for Faulkner, for Garcia-Marquez, maybe even for R. F. Delderfield. I think only me and four people in England might buy the Delderfield volume. heehee.
If you are a fan of Austen, the Bronte sisters, and/or George Eliot, beg, borrow, or steal a copy of this book.
I haven’t put links for the books because they are easily available from any online bookseller.