For those of us who have read Austen’s Persuasion, there can be no doubt. Captain Wentworth’s letter to Miss Anne Elliot is exquisite. It is a pivotal moment which brings tears to our eyes and returns hope to our bruised hearts.
But have you ever given any thought to what might have occurred before the good captain returned to England? The man was distraught! He was possessed by bitterness, regret, and a profound sense of grief. Did he pour out his heart? Did he attempt to contact his one true love and see if he could secure her trust and affections? No. No, he did not. The brave and battle-born sea captain dug in his heals and refused to give quarter! When he finally returns to England, he shows Anne Elliot no mercy and our hearts cry on her behalf. It’s not until the very end of the story that our injured souls truly begin to heal, and that is principally due —in my humble opinion—to Austen’s finest work: Captain Wentworth’s letter.
But what brought on the change in his behavior?
In “Celestial Persuasion,” Miss Abigail Isaacs and Captain Wentworth are thrown into a relationship that would have been considered quite rare during the Regency era. In fact, they become correspondents—pen pals, if you will, thanks to Jonathan Isaacs’ plotting and planning.
Abigail undergoes a series of trials; and as we usually discover in novels such as these, our protagonist finds her way through some dark and troubling times. Along the way, she shares her thoughts and experiences with her new friend. In her final letter, Abigail urges the captain home to England and back to his Anne. It remains to be seen if he was easily persuaded…
As some of you may know, I set out to write Celestial Persuasion when I came across this painting of Mariquita Sanchez de Thompson. This scene depicts the moment when the Argentine national anthem was sung for the very first time.
The image of ladies and gentlemen in Regency attire was far from what I had expected to find in colonial Argentina. To tell the truth, I would have expected full crinoline skirts and impressive peinetas, such as we find in the satirical work of Cesar Hipolito Bacle.
By delving into the aftermath of the May Revolution of 1810, I discovered that the aristocracy of Buenos Aires was more inclined to follow the fashion trends of Paris or even London. The influence coming from across the pond was not to be denied!
I began connecting the dots and weaved a tale that included English noblemen and naval officers, along with the liberator of Spanish America: Jose de San Martin. Establishing a friendship in between Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth and my own fictional character, Jonathan Isaacs, was the next step in the process.
Next, I began looking to incorporate that bit of yiddishkeit that is so crucial to my work. For example, I wanted to ensure that the Jewish holidays mentioned throughout the novel occurred in accordance to the Hebrew calendar. In the prologue, Abigail Isaacs writes to her brother, describing their father’s passing—just prior to his favorite holiday: Pesach (Passover).
I must assume that you have not received my news from home, and knowing how you are impatient with all but the essentials, allow me to put it to you in words so familiar they could be your own: our dear papa died on March 26th on the eve of Rosh Chodesh—sadly a little more than a week before his favorite holiday. He had been looking forward to leading the Passover seder this year; but then again, he had been unwell for several months and refused to change his habits.
Rosh Chodesh is mentioned several times throughout the novel, as are other holidays, such as the High Holy Days and Chanukah. I suppose I could have picked any date when these events “usually” occur; but it was important to be accurate, particularly when it came to a certain battle that took place on February 3, 1813. Hopefully, the following snippet helps to explain…
“San Martín plans to engage with a Spanish royalist force in one month’s time,” he muttered beneath his breath. “When do you expect to travel to witness your monumental natural event?”
She grimaced at the small sound emitting from her lips. “I must be in residence at the beginning of the month, though I do not believe it is any of your concern.” Rethinking her statement, Abigail’s voice grew with enthusiasm. “Mr. Gabay!” she exclaimed, “has he chosen the exact date?”
“You cannot imagine that I would share that information, Miss Isaacs.”
Vehemently she shook her head. “I care not for your confidences, at least for the reasons you may suspect. I only ask that you heed me, sir. I must be in Rosario for Rosh Chodesh. There will be a new moon on the first of February. The night’s sky will be sufficiently darkened to allow for maximum visibility of galactic activity. Do you understand my meaning?”
The Battle of San Lorenzo was a turning point for the rebels fighting the Spanish crown. If I wanted to showcase the event in my story—and have it coincide with Rosh Chodesh—it had to be… kosher. I knew I had to get it right! First, I researched the status of the moon phase in February 1813. I found that information here and here. Then, I checked to see if the Gregorian calendar aligned with the Hebrew calendar. I found that here and here. It worked out!
Throughout the story, we follow Abigail as she celebrates Shabbat and Havdalah. Granted, her family is no longer as pious as when her mother lived. Nevertheless, when Abigail is called to London to meet Lord Fife, she ensures to take her ritual items. And when she and Mrs. Frankel find themselves aboard a frigate sailing across the Atlantic, I made sure to incorporate an every day nautical item into a pivotal scene.
Wrapping up warmly in her darkest cape, Abigail reached for the lantern perched above the dresser. It was the same lantern she and Mrs. Frankel had been instructed to use for the Sabbath, for it came equipped with a sliding shutter to darken the room without extinguishing the candle. Abigail smiled, recalling the cabin boy’s shock at their request to kindle the Shabbos candles whilst aboard the ship. He had gone on for nearly a quarter of an hour outlining the hazards and noting the fire stations that equipped every passageway in the event of a crisis...
Abigail had been correct in her estimation. The men were gallivanting en masse at the forecastle and she could remain in peace to the aft. She allowed herself to be guided by the lantern’s light but closed the shutter when she reached her chosen destination and waited for her eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness. In truth, it was a perfect night for stargazing as they had just entered into the new moon phase. Without the moonlight, the galaxy’s core was visible in all its splendor, and Abigail stood immobile in awe of the spectacle before her.
How many minutes had transpired, she could not say for certain. She felt tears trickle down her cheeks, but she could not be bothered to wipe them away. How she longed to share the moment with Jonathan! Not to scribble down the longitude and latitude of their location. Not to calculate or measure, but simply to stand and observe the immensity of it all and to understand her place in the universe. Her tears had dried where they had fallen, but with the wind picking up, she could once again feel bits of salt water on her cheeks as the waves began to swell. It was not until she heard the men shouting and witnessed the crew running hither and thither that Abigail was obliged to return to her room.
She retraced her footsteps to find the ladder once more. The descent, she hoped, would prove to be easier; but as she stepped down off the last rung, the wind and waves combined and exerted such a force on the ship that Abigail lost her balance. With flailing hands she attempted to seize hold of something that would steady her feet; but the action cost her dearly, for the lantern slipped from her grasp and the candle was extinguished. She crept along the passageway, holding on to the walls, helpless in the dark, until the ship pitched suddenly and she felt herself tumble forward.
As my outline began unfolding, I found that I quite liked the town of Exeter for the Isaacs family. The obvious problem was that I knew next to nothing about Devonshire as it related to Jews. Imagine my delight when I came across the wealth of information located here and here. Actually, there are pages and pages of data relating to the Jewish history in this particular county. I not only discovered the location of Exeter’s synagogue, but its officiant as well. Naturally, I had to showcase Abigail’s relationship with her rabbi and her place of worship.
In addition, this map created by Braun & Hogenberg in 1617 helped me visualize the Isaacs hometown.
Approaching the mile mark, she passed St. Thomas’s chapel and the many farms that dotted Byrd’s Lane. Abigail was flooded with bittersweet memories and recalled walking toward the synagogue, her small hand held by her mother, while Jonathan raced ahead and her father followed behind at a leisurely pace. They would meet friends along the way, and the adults would catch up on the weekly gossip before entering the house of worship. Ezekiel and Kitty Jacobs, her parents’ closest friends, had been amongst the founders of the synagogue, for they applied to St. Mary Arches Church to lease the ground for its erection. Whenever Jonathan would complain of the rabbi’s lengthy sermons, Mr. Jacobs would tell the story of the synagogue’s consecration.
Lastly, I wanted my story to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Jewish Colonization Association. Headed by financier and renown philanthropist, Baron Maurice von Hirsch and his wife, Baroness Clara, this organization was created decades after Argentina’s declared independence. However, had it not been for such forward thinking individuals such Wilhelm Loewenthal, a Romanian doctor conducting research in the area, Rabbi Zadoc Kahn, Chief Rabbi of Paris, or my fictional Lieutenant Gabay with his pipe dreams, who is to say if the seeds of change would have come to fruition.
The Battle of San Lorenzo took place in 1813 in the province of Santa Fe. A little over 70 years later, a group of Jews escaping pogroms and persecution in Imperial Russia settled in a town about three hours away from that battlefield. They named their new home Kiryat Moshe, or Town of Moses, to honor Maurice Hirsch. The land agent, who may or may not have been of French origin, registered the name to his own liking and the town became known as Moisés Ville. The inhabitants, these so-called Jewish gauchos, were the first to create a Jewish agricultural colony in Argentina. Of course, my characters had no notion of what was to come, but they had hope.
Captain Wentworth, my last piece of news may be the greatest surprise of all. Mr. Gabay and I shall not reside in Buenos Aires for long. When the fight for independence has been won, my Mr. Gabay—who never intended to make the military his career—will resign his commission. We shall repair to my father’s property in Rosario, where I will be at liberty to continue my research and Mr. Gabay will begin his work in helping the Jewish communities of the Russian Empire. Santa Fe is a wide and open land. Refugees of all faiths and backgrounds may surely make this place their new homeland and dwell in peace without persecution. Praise God, everything does indeed happen for a reason.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed the post!
The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) has launched a new podcast entitled, “Nice Jewish Books.” A leading authority on Judaica librarianship, this AJL series focuses on adult Jewish fiction.
Host, Sheryl Stahl is the director of the Frances-Henry Library on the Jack H. Skirball campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is an avid reader herself; and after serving the AJL in various capacities, she has now taken on the role of Podcaster. Stahl’s background comes into play as she interacts with authors and provides a platform to discuss their work. The premise for the show is to talk about Jewish literature, although her preference is not to include books based on war, political thrillers or Holocaust-related works. That, of course, was what drew my attention! Here— at long last— was a place to discuss my passion for Jewish historical fiction.
Do me a favor, won’t you?
Make yourself a nice cup of tea and tune in!
I am honored and delighted to announce that I was a guest author on the program. Please follow the link and listen in. Leave a comment on the website for Sheryl and the AJL community of readers and bibliophiles. I’d be so proud to know you stopped by. Happy reading (and listening)!
Throughout this series, I have been looking at Jewish themes that can be found in Jane Austen’s work. That’s not to say that the renown author intentionally incorporated Judaic messages in her writing; however, as I’ve pointed out in my previous posts, Austen was raised in an observant environment and would have been quite at home quoting from the Good Book or referencing various biblical storylines. I am enjoying finding the similarities. I hope you are too!
SELICHAH, MECHILAH, and KAPPARAH ~ The different forms of Forgiveness.
I previously touched upon the subject of repentance, but the matter requires further discussion. The theme of granting forgiveness can be found in nearly every book that Jane Austen penned. Just think for a moment. Elizabeth forgives Darcy, Elinor forgives Edward, Fanny forgives Edmund, and everyone is only too willing to forgive Emma!
In Persuasion, we are introduced to a couple long separated by distance and pride. Captain Frederick Wentworth has spent years holding a grudge, nursing his bruised ego and feeling the victim. For those who don’t know the story: Miss Anne Elliot had entered into an understanding with the gentleman, but —for better or for worse—was persuaded to end the budding relationship. Years pass before the two are brought back together again. Captain Wentworth tells his new friends that he finds Miss Anne, “altered beyond his knowledge.” Ruthless, heartless man! The gentleman is still licking his wounds…
He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure.”
It has been eight years and he still didn’t understand her! Had he used the time to reflect and to try to comprehend Anne’s actions, it would have been emotionally and mentally healthier for all concerned. Of course, that would have changed the arc of the story and no one understood that better than Austen.
In Northanger Abbey, we are introduced to a young lady just coming out into society. She has very little to say in her favor; and in fact, our heroine spends her days daydreaming and imagining herself the helpless victim of some gothic novel.
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.”
Catherine is invited to stay with family friends in Bath, and finds herself, quite suddenly, in over her head. With no real experience of socializing with others who have more—shall we say—life experiences, her naivete and imagination run wild. She wrongly suspects General Tilney (the father of the young man she comes to admire) of a crime he did not commit. In the end, she is somewhat exonerated, but the acknowledgment doesn’t come without some distress.
Your imagination may be overactive, but your instinct was true. Our mother did suffer grievously and at the hands of our father…No vampires, no blood. But worse crimes, crimes of the heart.”
Like any biblical story that focuses on Teshuva, Catherine experiences growth through pain. She recognizes her failings, repents, and determines to improve her behavior. The arc of her story is in keeping with Austen’s philosophy. The mean-spirted and conniving Thorpe siblings, however, do not see the error of their ways and they suffer for it. Austen uses their storyline to illustrate her point once again. Those who merit a HEA (happily ever after) will be rewarded in the end.
My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.”
I can’t help but think of the period leading up to the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We begin by commemorating the holiday of Selichot and use the time before “the gates begin to close” to think of those we have wronged.
Asking for forgiveness, for selichah, is the first step we must take. This is where we realize our error, we apologize to the injured party, and we show remorse.
When our poor behavior has caused much pain, we speak of mechilah. We ask that our transgressions be wiped away. We want things to be as they were; or better yet, to go on stronger than before. This can prove to be difficult for the injured party; for though many of us can forgive, it is very difficult to completely forget.
If the wrongdoing is of biblical proportions, a person may feel they are not worthy of forgiveness. They believe that there can’t be a positive outcome, no matter the excuse, no matter how many promises are made. Most people are not capable of forgiving an act of this magnitude. In fact, the forgiveness we seek, the kapparah, is beyond human capacity. The atonement, in fact, comes from a higher source, such as on Yom Kippur. This is when G-d looks into your heart, sees your repentance and says, “Be comforted.”
In Persuasion, Jane Austen presents us with a scenario that is just as relevant today as it was three hundred years ago. Secure in his righteousness, Captain Wentworth needlessly wallows in Anne’s perceived betrayal. Obstinately holding on to his resentment only succeeds in polluting his view of the truth! Their meeting again gives them both a second chance to speak their heart. It’s a story full of angst and it is sometimes intolerable to witness their pain. When the captain overhears Anne speaking of love and loss to another gentleman, he finally comes clean. Captain Wentworth writes to Anne and bares his soul—as he should have done years ago.
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”
In the ensuing paragraphs, Austen satisfies our need for the couple’s reconciliation. Anne and Frederick speak honestly to one another, exposing their vulnerabilities and the various misunderstandings that led to such despair. They forgive one another (selichah), their love is stronger for it (mechilah); and because they merit a HEA, they are comforted (kapparah). Quintessential Austen. Brilliant. Just brilliant!
In my latest novel, Celestial Persuasion, it is clear that Miss Abigail Isaacs shares similar characteristics with her newfound friend, Captain Wentworth. Fear and resentment have colored her view, not only of her ever-changing circumstances, but of a certain gentleman. As Mr. Bennet— of Pride and Prejudice fame— urges: read on, friend, read on…
A soft scratch upon the door shook her out of her musings, miserable and disheartening as they were. Abigail bade the interloper to enter, as she wiped away her tears.
“I have brought you some broth, my dear,” said Mrs. Frankel. “I thought you might be hungry, as we had not had to opportunity to dine. Do you think you might take a little?”
“I am much too shaken to eat, though I thank you for your concern. Will you not have it in my stead?”
“I have had some sent to my room, Avileh. I will leave you to rest then—oh, but I nearly forgot!” Mrs. Frankel exclaimed. “I have a letter for you, my dear. It is from Mr. Gabay.”
“Mr. Gabay! Whatever could he want? He barely spoke two words together in my presence. I fear his affections have been won over by Miss Kendall, Frankie dearest. They must have quarreled, for he was scowling all evening. Did you not notice?”
“No, indeed. However did you come to such a conclusion? Truly, my dear, you can see clear into the heavens but you cannot see what stands right before you.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Never you mind. Have a bit of your soup and read your letter,” she insisted, placing the envelope upon the bed. “Good-night, my dear.”
Abigail watched as Mrs. Frankel closed the door behind her. She eyed the broth with little interest and settled her gaze upon the letter instead. What could he have to say? Another jest? Another commentary on the state of the new union? Upon closer inspection, she noted that he had hastily folded the missive, it had not been sealed and it had not been addressed. Though she had had her fill of surprises to last a lifetime, her curiosity would not be neglected. She would read his letter and be done with it. For what could he possibly have to say that would lighten her heart?
What do you think? Will Mr. Gabay’s words cause more harm than good? Will Abigail be able to forgive past transgressions, even if that means forgiving herself? I invite you to read the story and come to your own conclusions. Until next time, thank you for stopping by!
As you have read in my previous posts, I began piecing together a story that involved Captain Wentworth and his good friend—and ship’s physician—Jonathan Isaacs. Naturally, this sliver of an idea resulted in hours and hours of research. I knew nothing about the Navy, nothing about officers, and nothing about the Jewish factor that I wanted to thread into this particular tapestry of a story. Now, before I write another word: Tell me you don’t see the similarities between the naval officers of Argentina’s Regency era and those of Austen fame.
Need I say more?
Apparently, I do! My story unfolds in Exeter, where the Isaac family lived in close proximity to Barton Cottage. That, of course, is a fictional location; nonetheless, one well known to fans of Sense and Sensibility. In any event, the head of the Isaacs family was a country doctor, but I wanted Jonathan to be a physician in service to the Crown. This is where the questions began. Were there Jews in Exeter during the Regency era? Were they allowed to serve in the Navy? Did they have any connection to that world at all? It was then that I discovered a veritable treasure trove!
Jewish Communities and Records- The Jews of South-West England (Jewishgen.org) provides this information and more! It soon became clear to me that there was Jewish life in Exeter, Plymouth, Falmouth and Penzance, as well as several other towns throughout Devon in the years dating from 1750 to 1900. There is evidence from earlier still, but the records I focused on were those of the Regency and Victorian eras (where the details were irrefutable). And in stark contrast to what Dickens and Heyer portray in their works, the Jewish community of South-West England was comprised of a small, yet respectable, upper middle class.
7 families kept one servant indicating that they may have been in the £150 – £300 per annum income bracket; two families each with two servants may have earned about £500 per annum; and the one family with three servants was possibly in the £750 per annum income group.
By 1796, five Jews had shops in the fashionable shopping area of Exeter sufficiently well established as to warrant inclusion in the Exeter Pocket Journal, a local newspaper. There were two silversmiths, an engraver who sold a variety of goods, a pawnbroker, and a stationer. And in addition to these and other trades, there were naval agents.
To say that conditions were harsh in the Royal Navy throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries would be an understatement, but the ever-present hope of prize money made the cruel life somewhat bearable. Think of how Captain Wentworth’s life changed course when he was awarded his prize money! Officers had bankers to look after their interests. The seamen, however, turned to local tradesmen of naval towns for assistance. They were the link to the naval authorities in London. This system, at first, was unofficial and based on mutual trust. I present Abraham Joseph, an Exeter tradesmen, as a fine example. He earned such trust, as his obituary in the Flying Post (1794) indicates:
As an agent for seamen, his practice was well worthy of the imitation of every person in that business, as several orphans and indigent widows can testify.
At some point in 1809, legislation was enacted which required all seamen to register with a licensed navy agent. In order to obtain a license, the tradesman had to post a bond with two sureties, under penalty of £200. Sometimes, a would-be navy agent was a man of high social standing; nevertheless, everyone had to swear that they were worth more than £5,000 in order to qualify. The first list of 174 licensed navy agents included 66 Jews. It was said that Jewish tradesmen were held in high esteem and the proof was in their rapid growth in that particular community. Between 1807 and 1814, navy agents as a whole increased sevenfold throughout England. The number of Jewish agents increased thirtyfold!
The British fleet was manned by nearly 35,000 seamen by this time. Jewish shopkeepers throughout the port towns specialized in doing trade with the ships. They were allowed to go on board with goods that appealed to the “simple seamen,” such as “old watches and seals, watch chains, rings, fancy shoes, scarlet and blue silk handkerchiefs, clay pipes, and fresh food of every description.” Honest traders with good references were most welcome. In 1813, Joseph Joseph presented the following royal command which granted him access to the crewmen at port:
I do hereby certify that Joseph Joseph of Plymouth has at different times supplied the Crews of His Majesty’s Ships when under my Command with Clothing to my entire satisfaction, and I do hereby recommend him to the Admirals, Captains, and Officers of His Majesty’s Navy, to be permitted to transact any Business that may be done on board the respective Ships under their Command.
St. James’s Palace ~ December 2, 1812
How do I top a letter of recommendation from St James’s Palace? With this:
Members of both congregations at Exeter and Plymouth would, on occasion, travel up to Dartmoor prison to practice acts of chesed, or lovingkindness. By the end of 1814, there were 2,340 American prisoners of war being held at Dartmoor, and a number of them were Jewish soldiers and sailors. Commodore Uriah P. Levy, was among them. Notably, this officer created the law which abolished the act of flogging in the United States Navy. Captain Levi Charles Harby was another Jewish sailor being held captive. During his imprisonment, a Jewish baker from Plymouth would make the daily trip to sell his baked goods. One day, he offered a loaf of bread to Captain Harby. The officer refused it. The baker, however, insisted. Inside the loaf, he had hidden a newspaper clipping that told of an important battle at New Orleans. This encouraged the captain to escape, apparently with the help of the baker! The story went on to report that Captain Harby was able to find his way back to his men. He continued to serve his country with great success and it was in no small part, thanks to the baker mench from South-West England.
Seeing that we— here in the U.S. —are celebrating our freedom today, I’d say that little tidbit is quite fitting! Happy Independence Day!
It seemed like the day would never arrive, but here we are! I am excited and nervous and hopeful and, well…excited! I can’t wait for you to read my latest book and tell me your thoughts.
A Jewish Regency Romance Set Against the Backdrop of Argentina’s Struggle for Independence.
Celestial Persuasion is now available on Amazon in both digital and paperback format. This has been a labor of love and inspiration, but now the real work begins. I’m an independent author, which means I need your help to spread the word. Please tell your friends! Share my posts on your social media. Are you on Goodreads? You can help me by adding the book to your “Want to Read” shelf. Actually, you could take it a step further and create a new shelf and call it “Jewish Regency Romance” or “Jewish Historical Fiction.” Vote for the book in the Listopia section. There are many great categories from which to choose, like this one, or this oneor this one ! If you don’t know how to add or vote for the book, ASK ME! I’m only too happy to help. 🙂 Last, but not least, read the book! Leave a rating or a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your blog. The momentum created by your input is priceless. It helps me engage with other readers and brings my work out into the forefront—protecting me from those nasty algorithms!
Caroline Herschel was the perfect role model for my protagonist, Abigail Isaacs. Her extraordinary contributions to Astronomy were certainly an inspiration, but Caroline had two other interesting attributes. One was her Jewish heritage, the other was her relationship with her brother, William. The similarity with Abigail and her brother, Jonathan was bashert: It was meant to be.
I am grateful for your support and your interest. Please continue to watch this blog for future posts and interesting tidbits.
I’m going back to revisit Day Three of the Blog Tour…you know, the day that didn’t go as planned. I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, so I am going to try something different. ¡Espero que les guste!
As you have read, Celestial Persuasion takes place during Argentina’s Regency period. I thought it would be nice to translate, and share, one of my Blog Tour entries with our Spanish-speaking Janeite friends. And so, without further ado, here is Day One presented in Spanish.
Hola Mirta y bienvenidos a My Jane Austen Book Club! Como de costumbre, pregunto ¿cuándo fue tu primer encuentro con Jane Austen”?
¡Hola María Grazia! Te agradezco tu bienvenida. ¡He estado esperando este día! Para responder a tu pregunta, tengo que volver a la clase de literatura inglesa de la Sra. Malm en la escuela secundaria. Estaba en el noveno grado cuando leímos Orgullo y Prejuicio. Era una ávida lectora de novelas en ese momento, pero si la memoria no me falla, me tomó varios años apreciar su genio y convertirme en una verdadera fanática de Jane.
Felicitaciones por el lanzamiento de Celestial Persuasion. ¿Descubriste algo notable sobre los personajes de Persuasión de Jane Austen mientras escribías tu libro?
De hecho, lo hice, pero comenzó cuando estaba escribiendo mi novela anterior, TheMeyersons of Meryton y tenía que ver más con la ambientación, que con los propios personajes. Tuve que crear una solución para disciplinar al Sr. Wickham, ¡ese sin vergüenza! Lo que descubrí no solo me proporcionó una alternativa de transportation a Australia, sino que me abrió los ojos a una historia que hubiese aprendido, si hubiera sido educada en mi tierra natal de Argentina.
A ver si me puedo explicar. En general, aquellos de nosotros que leemos Austen y disfrutamos de historias de la regencia estamos bien versados en las Guerras Napoleónicas. Es casi imposible recoger una novela centrada en esa época y no encontrar algo relacionado con ese conflicto. Fue parte de la vida de Austen; ¡impactó a toda Europa! Pero mientras Napoleón causaba estragos y marchaba por todo el continente, había otros que se concentraban en el Nuevo Mundo. Mi investigación me llevó por el proverbial agujero del conejo y aterricé a los pies de Lord Duff, el cuarto conde de Fife. Me enteré del patrocinio de Lord Fife de José de San Martín. Descubrí las conexiones entre los ingleses y el Virreinato del Río de la Plata. Entre las historias de oficiales navales, monarcas desterrados, y damas vestidas de regencia, comencé a formular una idea. Las piezas estaban allí sobre la mesa, esperando a ser ensambladas como un gran rompecabezas. Fue el capitán Wentworth quien lo pudo unir para mi y así fue que desarrollé mi cuento.
Debido a que las guerras napoleónicas y la lucha por la independencia del Virreinato ocurrieron en el mismo período, pude tejer una historia en torno a mi protagonista, Abigail Isaacs—una joven que se encuentra en una situación desesperada—y el buen capitán del HMS Laconia. Al igual que el trabajo de Austen, una parte de la historia es epistolar. La correspondencia entre Abigail y el capitán Wentworth habría sido bastante escandalosa en circunstancias normales. Pero, la narrativa exige la comunicación; y al final de mi novela, el escenario está preparado para que Anne Elliot y el capitán comiencen su camino —tal como Jane Austen lo imaginó.
2. ¿Cuál es la conexión entre Persuasión de Austen y tu Celestial Persuasion?
Quise que mi libro sea una precuela; pero en orden para presentarlo como tal, necesitaba comprender plenamente el estado de Frederick Wentworth antes de su puesto en el HMSAsp. Y de hecho, leí Persuasión devuelta. Al mismo tiempo—mientras tropezaba por ese agujero de conejo que mencioné en la pregunta anterior—descubrí a una fascinante mujer que ustedes conocen bien: Mariquita Sánchez. Descubrí que su historia de amor con Jacob Thompson era similar a la de Anne Elliot y su capitán. Tanto las opciones de Mariquita como las de Anne fueron rechazadas por sus familias. En ambos casos, las familias afirmaron que oficiales navales pobres y jóvenes — desconocidos y sin experiencia— no eran candidatos para sus hijas. Donde Anne y Mariquita difieren es en su manera de reaccionar. Anne se dejó convencer de retirarse de su apego. Si lo hizo por el bien del capitán o por el de ella, es una pregunta que muchos lectores todavía debaten. Mariquita, en cambio, luchó por su elección y le costó caro. Mi protagonista, Abigail Isaacs, también se encuentra en aguas turbulentas y se le pide que tome una decisión que le altera la vida. No tiene ni amante ni familia que la convenza de una manera o otra. Abigail es una mujer sola; y siendo una criatura racional, ella hace su elección basada en los hechos tal como se presentan.
Había muchas similitudes entre la época de la regencia argentina y la de la obra de Austen, y no pude evitar unir las historias. Creé una conexión entre el capitán Wentworth y el hermano de mi protagonista. Es esta amistad la que obliga al capitán a entrar en la vida de Abigail Isaacs y pone a ambos en una nueva trayectoria.
3. ¿Hubo alguna escena que te gusto escribir particularmente?
¡Esta es una pregunta difícil! ¡No quisiera arruinar la lectura para tu audiencia! Solo diré que mi escena favorita fue muy satisfactoria de escribir. Sentí que la voz de Abigail sobresaltó más fuerte y más allá de cualquier cosa que había imaginado originalmente. Me conmovió la escena a mí misma, como si la estuviera observando como un extraño. Espero que también sea la favorita de un lector.
Otra escena involucraba la inclusión de una leyenda guaraní. Necesitaba inspiración para algún diálogo entre el teniente Gabay y Yasitata, una sirvienta guaraní. Pensé que tendría que pasar horas investigando en internet sobre esta cultura indígena, pero tuve suerte. O tal vez, me conmovió un ángel que vigila a los autores con bloque de escritor—¡no estoy del todo segura! Sólo voy a decir esto: Fue una gran satisfacción poder incluir esta fábula en el libro.
4. ¿Tienes una novela favorita de Austen? ¿Quiénes son tu heroína y héroe favorito?
Por mucho que disfruté Orgullo y Prejuicio—y he visto la adaptación cinematográfica de 1995 una y otra vez—Persuasión me conquistó. El crecimiento que vemos en Anne y el capitán Wentworth es poderoso, la constancia de su amor es conmovedora. Escribí sobre estos atributos en otro de mis libros: Destiny by Design~ Leah’s Journey. Si bien esta novela no es un verdadero “J.A.F.F.”, el libro fue definitivamente inspirado por Austen; y la transformación de Anne en Persuasión se discute con gran fervor entre mis dos protagonistas. Me encantó la determinación y amabilidad de Anne y su fuerza templada. Me encantó que el capitán Wentworth, aunque se sintió traicionado y mal utilizado, nunca amó a otra mujer.
5. ¿Cómo te ha inspirado Jane Austen?
Su Realismo me inspiró. Su afán por mostrar la vida tal y como la veía me inspiró. Austen, como sabemos, escribió sobre su mundo y su entorno. Aunque era ingeniosa y un poco sarcástica, nos trajo temas profundos para considerar y apreciar. Por supuesto, había historias de amor, pero en esencia, Austen nos permitió mirar a un mundo diferente, una cultura diferente. Con mi herencia cultural y mi origen étnico, seguir los pasos de Jane Austen me da una plataforma para compartir mis pasiones por la Judaica y mis raíces argentinas, con la ficción histórica. Desde luego, no pretendo tener su genio; su estilo e ingenio son legendarios. Sólo siento que ella abrió la puerta para los demás quienes tenemos historias para compartir, en un estilo propio…como Austen solía decir.
6. Contame más sobre tu investigación para Celestial Persuasion. ¿Qué te atrajo a esta historia en particular?
Supongo que mi radar de inmigrante atrae palabras que otros podrían no notar. Por ejemplo, si estoy leyendo, o viendo una película, y palabras como “el argentino” o “la pampa“ aparecen de repente, ¡me siento inmediatamente atraída! Aunque se suele mencionar de pasada, autores de la Regencia y las épocas victoriana han aludido a menudo a la participación inglesa en el Virreinato del Río de la Plata. En la miniserie de la BBC de la novela de Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers, el actor Greg Wise (también conocido como Willoughby) interpreta el papel de Guy Thwarte, un joven que se va a construir ferrocarriles en Argentina. En la miniserie de 2004 de Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, el Sr. Bell deja a Margaret Hale un legado antes de zarpar a la tierra de las pampas. Así que ya ven: sólo quería seguir el ejemplo que se puso delante de mí.
Debido a que me crié en los Estados Unidos, mi comprensión de la lucha argentina por la independencia era bastante deficiente. Pasé algún tiempo investigando la historia de la influencia de Inglaterra en el nacimiento de la República Argentina. Además, tuve que estudiar temas como la astronomía y la astrología en forma muy básicas, pero desde la perspectiva hebraica. Debido a que Abigail Isaacs “estudió los cielos”—al igual que su heroína, Caroline Herschel—quería que las fechas hebraicas correlacionaran con las actividades celestiales en y alrededor de 1812. El calendario hebreo está basado en la luna y, por lo tanto, difiere del calendario gregoriano. Tuve la suerte de incluir datos históricos y fiestas judías en la novela, y hacer que coincidan con lo que estaba sucediendo en los cielos. Esto fue particularmente importante en el capítulo que enfoca a la famosa batalla de San Lorenzo.
7. Mencionas temas que no se encuentran generalmente en una novela de Regencia: Argentina, Caroline Herschel y los temas judíos. ¿Cómo llegó a escribir sobre tales temas y el lector necesita tener una comprensión del judaísmo para disfrutar de tu libro?
¡Gran pregunta! Espero poder representar el judaísmo de Abigail Isaacs y Raphael Gabay al igual que los personajes anglicanos de Austen. Su fe forma parte de lo que son; está ahí, en el fondo…simplemente añade otra dimensión. Escribir sobre personajes y temas judíos es importante para mí, porque lo que nos han dado autores como Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens e incluso Heyer, no me agrada. Las caricaturas de los judíos codiciosos, malvados y de nariz grande es una parodia y debe ser impugnada. Del otro lado, hay una multitud de material de lectura que trata de la historia trágica del Holocausto. Esto es como debe ser. Deberíamos saber, y nunca olvidar lo que sucedió durante ese reinado de terror; el judaísmo es una religión que aprecia la vida. ¡Hay mucho más en nuestra historia que la tragedia y el dolor! Y es por eso que escribo ficción histórica judía ambientada en la Regencia y la época victoriana.
Sobre el tema de Argentina: ¡la respuesta es igual de sencilla! Como inmigrante, mi experiencia fue como dice la canción: No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá. Descendiente de rusos, Judía, nacida en Argentina, pero fanática de mi país adoptivo…me llevó casi toda mi vida (ya pronto cumplo 60) aceptar quien soy, cuales son mis raíces. Batallé en contra de un complejo de identidad. ¡Pero ya no más! Mi primer libro: With Love, The ArgentinaFamily, una especie de autobiografía, fue terapéutico y abrió la puerta a otras oportunidades y formas de pensar. No pretendo que mi trabajo sea académico; ¡no está destinado a serlo! Espero que les resulte leve y entretenido… e incluso ilustrativo.
En cuanto a por qué elegí a Caroline Herschel: Estaba buscando un modelo o héroe para mi protagonista, pero descubrí que había pocas mujeres matemáticas y científicas a principios de 1800. Descubrí a Sara Guppy, Mary Edwards y Mary Somerville y quedé completamente impresionada con sus logros. Luego me encontré con Caroline Lucretia Herschel. Sus extraordinarias contribuciones al mundo de la ciencia y la astronomía fueron sin duda una inspiración, pero ella tenía otros dos atributos interesantes que me llamaron la atención. Una era su herencia judía y la otra era su relación con su hermano, William. La relación con Abigail y su hermano, Jonathan Isaacs, fue bashert: Estaba destinado a ser.
8. ¿Por qué los lectores de Austen deberían obtener una copia de tu Celestial Persuasion? ¿Cómo los invitarías a hacerlo?
¡Gracias por preguntarme! Sabemos que hay una gran cantidad de variaciones de Austen disponibles para una audiencia mundial. Creo que es significativo que el trabajo de Austen continúe inspirando a un grupo diverso. Se nos han presentado interpretaciones modernas, historias de viajes en el tiempo, y narrativas que se centran en cualquier número de etnias y culturas. Esto habla de nuestra sed de nuevas y tentadoras tramas y temas austenescos. Celestial Persuasion no cambia a nuestros queridos personajes, pero llevará al lector en un viaje fuera de Inglaterra. Conocerás nuevas personas y culturas, y con suerte, te enamorarás de otra pareja cruzada por las estrellas.
Celestial Persuasion es definitivamente una novela independiente; y aunque he tratado de emular a Austen, la historia es única y propia. Permítanme terminar con los pensamientos de Austen:
“No podía sentarme seriamente a escribir un romance serio bajo ningún otro motivo que salvar mi vida, si fuera indispensable para mí mantenerlo – nunca relajarme en reírme de mí misma o de otras personas, estoy segura que debería ser colgada antes de haber terminado el primer capítulo. No – Debo mantener mi propio estilo y seguir a mi manera; y aunque nunca vuelva a tener éxito en eso, estoy convencida de que debería fracasar totalmente en cualquier otro.”
Invito a tu audiencia a dar una vuelta alrededor del mundo conmigo. Si las estrellas se alinean, Celestial Persuasion estará disponible en Amazon tanto en formato digital como impreso el 30 de junio de 2021. ¡Espero que disfruten de la lectura! Gracias por invitarme. ¡Fue divertido! Si desean más información sobre cualquiera de mis libros, les invito a visitar mi blog: mirtainestruppauthor.com