Antique lovers from all over England make the bi-monthly pilgrimage to the Sunbury Antique Market at Kempton Racetrack to find "treasures," but one fortunate visitor discovered something a bit more valuable than the average foxhunting trophy or odd bit of Blue Willow pattern. Joanna Campbell Slan, an American expatriot living in Sunningdale, hoped to purchase a scrapbook dating from the second World War. "I've written seven books about the art and craft of scrapbooking, and I hoped to find inspiration for another."
In the event, Mrs. Slan found a battered, fabric covered memory album, held together with a faded ribbon. "I couldn't really go through the pages, but the stall owner assured me it was a brilliant example of one family's WWII scrapbook, so I bought it on the spot." After paying the vendor, she tucked the purchase into her carry bag and spent the rest of the afternoon dodging raindrops and checking out other stalls.
"By the time I drove back to my home, I was tired, cold and wet. It didn't occur to me to look more carefully at my purchases. I was quite chuffed about finding a pair of matching Staffordshire dogs for a friend who loves King Charles Cavalier spaniels. I would have laid odds that the twin dogs represented the best 'find' I'd made all spring."
But further examination proved the scrapbook wasn't all it seemed to be. "At first I was very, very disappointed. I found that most of the pages weren't typical memory album pages at all! I had high hopes to see telegrams, coloured greeting cards, and the like, which would be typical from the 1940s."
Instead Mrs. Slan had found a handwritten manuscript stuffed inside the innocuous looking memory album. "Being a keen fan of the classic autobiography Jane Eyre, I quickly recognized these loose papers as a continuation of Jane's story! Written in her own hand."
An editor at Berkley Trade, a division of Penguin, agreed with that assessment. The editor and Mrs. Slan worked together to put the roughly sketched narrative into a readable format. The result is a new book scheduled for release on August 7, 2012, and called Death of a Schoolgirl. The publisher plans for it to become the first entry in a series named The Jane Eyre Chronicles.
Reviewers are already praising the new offering. Terrie Farley Moran of Criminal Elements has said, "Anyone who has read and loved Jane Eyre will be captivated by Death of a Schoolgirl."
Charlene Cruz of Bookish Whimsey writes, "(There is ) a subtle shift in tone from the original novel where the focus is on
Jane's development and her struggles, to this new story that creates a Jane,
who, having found herself, can now help others. "
Publisher's Weekly notes that "fans of historical cozies will best appreciate (the first) in (this) new series."
And Molly Weston of Meritorious Mysteries sums up the book with, "Would that all sagas which left readers wanting more could be continued as skillfully."
Death of a Schoolgirl is now available for pre-orders at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through any independent bookseller.