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Why Jane Austen Would Like My Novel by Garry Craig Powell

The author, wearing a blazer with the arms of Cambridge University

Recently, Our Parent Who Art in Heaven had its first (and so far, only) one-star rating on Goodreads. No review was left - probably because 'Emma', who made the rating, had not read the novel - otherwise, if she (or they) had good reasons for despising the book, why not give them? I respect anyone's opinion, provided there are reasons for it; the novel also has a three-star rating, and although I don't agree with everything the author says (because it appears that his caveats are ideological rather than literary), at least he does have some cogent arguments. However, I must confess that a poor rating with no review seems to me a spiteful and cowardly thing to do. It left me wondering who 'Emma' might be.

My suspicion that Emma did not read the novel is based on the fact that the rating appeared just days after publication, when only a handful of copies had been sold - and all or nearly all of them were sold to people whose identity I know. It's possible that some woke person got hold of an e-book and read it, or it may have been someone to whom one of the more than 20 Advance Review Copies were sent. But more likely Emma is simply someone who dislikes me personally - an ex-student with a grudge because I gave them a poor grade, or conceivably an ex-colleague who felt that I was lampooning him or her - wrongly.

The single name - the forename or Christian name, if anyone still uses that term - is almost certainly a pseudonym. At least I know no Emma. But the name made me wonder whether this malicious person might be a Jane Austen fan. And then it struck me that in fact, Jane herself would almost certainly have enjoyed my novel. At least, her novels have been a real influence on me, and I think Our Parent Who Art in Heaven has quite a bit in common with the novels of Miss Austen. Those novels may seem to be romances, and indeed there are love stories in them (as there are in mine), but essentially they are comedies, social satires that mercilessly skewer the pretentious, the hypocritical, the unfeeling, the snobbish, and the unintelligent - not so much the simple and honest unintelligent, for whom Jane has sympathy, but above all the affected and pretentious unintelligent, who believe themselves to be far brighter than they are. And my novel shares all these features. There are even several love stories in it - including one that's quite as ideal and romantic as Jane's are.

So I think true Austen fans - the sensitive and intelligent ones, who understand her novels - are likely to enjoy Our Parent Who Art in Heaven. Just as Austen's work is slyly feminist (rather than aggressively so), I would argue that mine is too. And while there's a rather despicable male character in it, the simp and cuck, Melvyn Shamburger, there's also Huw Lloyd-Jones, a hero of integrity and dignity, on a par with Mr Knightley. Don't believe me? Read the novel yourself, and see what you think. And if you rate it on Goodreads, please leave a review!

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