The Widow's Fire explores the shadow side of Jane Austen's final novel Persuasion, disrupting its happy ending and throwing moral certainties off balance. We join the action close to the moment when Austen draws away for the last time and discretely gives an overview of the oncoming marriage between heroine Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. This, it transpires in The Widow's Fire, is merely the beginning of a journey. Soon dark undercurrents disturb the order and symmetry of Austen's world. The gothic flavor of the period, usually satirized by Austen, begins to assert itself. Characters far below the notice of Anne, a baronet's daughter, have agendas of their own. Before long, we enter into the realm of scandal and blackmail. Anne Elliot must come to recognize the subversive power of those who have been hitherto invisible to her -- servants, maids and attendants -- before she can defend her fiancé from an accusation too dreadful to be named. Captain Wentworth himself must learn the skills of living on land; the code of honour and secrecy which has protected him on deck no longer applies on the streets of Bath.
Paul Butler is the author of nine novels, the most recent of which is The Good Doctor (2014). His work has appeared on the judges' lists of Canada Reads, the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards shortlists, and he was on the Relit Longlist for three consecutive years. Between 2003 and 2008, he won the annual Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards four times and was subsequently invited to be first literary representative and then chair on the Arts and Letters committee. He currently lives and works in Lethbridge, Alberta.
"The Widow's Fire is a wonderfully subversive, well-aimed take on Jane Austen's delicate moral patterns. An intriguing read."
--Donna Morrissey, author of the national best-selling novel, The Fortunate Brother
"The Widow's Fire is an intriguing revisioning of Jane Austen's Persuasion, told from several points of view: the narrators are Mrs. Smith, Nurse Rooke, Captain Wentworth, and, interestingly, a freed slave, Plato, who is not 'seen' in Austen's novel (though indeed he may be in attendance, in livery, in the Assembly Rooms). The setting is Bath, principally in the Westgate rooms of Mrs. Smith, shortly before the wedding of Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot, which is to take place at Kellynch. It is difficult to discuss the action of the novel because to do so would spoil its many surprises. Suffice it to say that they are worth waiting for. Sinister motives emerge, and the union of Frederick and Anne is gravely threatened. What makes The Widow's Fire of particular value is the light shed on the characters of Wentworth and Anne. Frederick is a hero at sea, but an innocent on land, who must learn to accept his weaknesses, while Anne gradually and firmly emerges as a strong, principled, compassionate woman who establishes the novel's moral basis. Butler has given us a well-crafted piece of work, clever and thoughtful, provocative. One wonders, of course, what Austen would have thought of Butler's version. Read it and decide for yourself."
--Frances Beer, Professor Emerita, Graduate Program in English, York University, and author of Pilgrims in Love
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