Virtues and Vices
by Grania Beckford
amazon.com  (out of print)
ISBN 0312849540


         Review by Lynn Lamy, 12 May 1998
Virtues and Vices is a retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion which takes place in about 1906.  The first names of the characters have been changed, but they all begin with the same letter as they did in Persuasion.  Thus Elizabeth is Edwina, Sir Walter is Sir Wilfred, Mary is Marigold and Anne becomes Angela.  Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view.

Lady (Veronica) Russell favors Angela above the whole Elliot family and takes her to London with her in the spring.  This particular spring they arrive back at Kellynch to find the young cousin Wilburforce Elliot (Jane Austen's William Walter Elliot) ensconced there with Sir Wilfred and Edwina, embraced as the future heir.  Angela is quite taken with him, for she feels she's finally found her "gentle gentleman".  Yet the very next day, young Wilburforce is ejected form the house under strange circumstances.  Edwina claims to have found him in an indelicate situation, but neither Sir Wilfred nor Angela ever finds out what exactly Wilburforce is supposed to have done.  Angela spends the rest of the book unhappy, trying to forget that she ever met her "gentle gentleman."

There was a great deal of vice in this book, and very little virtue.  The chapters written from Angela and Wilburforce's points of view are the only ones that are not centered around sex, and explicit sex at that.  Beckford had made Wentworth into a con man who comes to Kellynch as Lady Russell's toy boy and who proceeds to have sex with almost every other female character in the book, including the Musgrove girls (called Helena and Lucinda here).  Lady Russell is a nymphomaniac (as actually most of the characters seem to be), Edwina has both an incestuous relationship with her father and a lesbian relationship with Mrs. Clay, who is not actually Mr. Shepard's daughter, but his lover, who infiltrates the Kellynch household in order to keep the Elliot's business for her lover.

This book actually has nothing to do with Jane Austen beyond stealing her character names, place names, and rough plot.  What is sad is that Angela and Wilburforce's chapters are quite well written. The descriptions of how Angela's unexpected smile strikes each character are quite good.  Beckford could have been a good writer, and this book could have been so much better.  If you are looking for a book filled with explicit sex, then try this book.  If you are looking for something like Jane Austen, you'll have to look elsewhere.  Pardon me, but I have to go read Persuasion three times through in order to get the awful "taste" of this book out of my head!