Synopses & Reviews
A sparkling tale of wit and romance from a latter-day Jane Austen
As a young woman, clever, self-reliant Lydia Templeton scandalized Regency society by rejecting the countys most eligible bachelor. Years later, although Lydia would prefer to avoid entanglements of the heart altogether, her godmother begs her to help her young ward make a suitable match. Though the prospect fills Lydia with horror, she can scarcely refuse, but things turn out even worse than she fears when her ward proves surprisingly tricky to manage and the confirmed spinster begins to suspect that her own heart may not be the closed book she thought it was.
Brilliantly written and observed, An Accomplished Woman is a delightfully accomplished comedy of manners.
A sparkling tale of wit and romance, "An Accomplished Woman" is a delightful comedy of manners written by a latter-day Jane Austen.
About the Author
JUDE MORGAN, who studied with Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, lives in England. Morgan's previous works include Emily and Charlotte, a novel about the Brontë sisters; Symphony; Indiscretion; and Passion, which was called "one of the best books of 2005” by The Washington Post Book World.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you think about Lydia? What are her strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and defeats? Does she fit the mold of the contemporary female heroine or does she break that mold? How? 2. In what ways is Lydia spurned by her decision to not marry? 3. Which of the two central female characters—Lydia and Phoebe—do you relate to most strongly? Why? 5. An Accomplished Woman is, in some ways, a debate about the principles of Rationalism and maturity, represented by Lydia, and those of Romanticism and youth, represented by Phoebe. Which character, and principle, do you think rules the day in the end? 6. In the beginning, which of Phoebes suitors—the dignified Mr. Allardyce, who has a promising career in diplomatic service, or the overwrought Mr. Beck who pens tortured poetry concerning milkmaids and their “lacteous buckets”—did you most admire, and why? 7. We know that many of Lydias attempts to help Phoebe fail miserably, but in what ways does Lydia succeed in assisting Phoebe? 8. While matchmaking is the central device in An Accomplished Woman, both for the plot and as a backdrop to develop characters, we know that not all of the marriages in the story, the results of matchmaking, are good. Discuss the marriages in the book with respect to how well they fulfill various functions: social, financial, spiritual, etc. Which are good matches and which are bad? What character traits in the couples make them suited or unsuited for each other? 9. How does the relationship between Lydia and Lewis change throughout the course of the novel? In light of their occasional quarrels and antagonistic banter, how do you think they really feel about each other at the beginning? What incidents do you believe account for the change in Lydias feelings toward Lewis? 10. How did each others presence as spectators impact Lydia and Lewis flirtations while in Bath? 11. In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley states that for a woman to be truly accomplished, she must “have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved,” to which Elizabeth Bennet responds with incredulity. Discuss this definition of an accomplished woman, and how it speaks to the position of women at the time. Does Lydia, the “accomplished woman” of this book, embody this ideal? 12. Jude Morgans style of storytelling, as exhibited in An Accomplished Woman, is inspired by the works of Jane Austen. Which of Austens novels did you see reflected in Lydias story?