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A delightful read DANCING WITH MR DARCY short-story collection. Honno Press, pounds 7.99. FOR many Jane Austen fans, a title featuring the immortal name Mr Darcy should be met with caution, as too many cliched adaptations of her work have let them down in the past. However, for a true homage to Austen look no further than Dancing With Mr Darcy, a collection of 20 original short stories selected from entries in the Chawton House Library Competition 2009. Each tale has been inspired by Austen's much-loved characters, her themes, her home at Chawton House or the effect that she has had on her readers. Tipping The Velvet author Sarah Waters introduces the stories, which range from Austen being put on trial by her less favoured characters to a modern retelling of Persuasion, and even an imagining of Austen's own change of heart. Featuring such a wide range of genres, themes, emotions and characters, there is something for everyone. REBECCA TAYLOR Dip in and savour CHANGING MY MIND.

Zadie Smith/ Hamish Hamilton, pounds 20. EXPANSIVE, indulgent, therapeutic - Zadie Smith's book of essays is a perfect excuse to curl up in an armchair with a mug of coffee while the wind howls outside. Changing My Mind reveals Smith as a thoughtful writer who ponders over her culture and the election of Barack Obama in one moment, before exploring her obsession with Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo in another. This is not a book to read cover-to-cover, but to dip into and savour, re-reading her beautifully-constructed prose. Her simple piece on writing a novel is hugely enjoyable and informative and worth the price of the book alone. Smith's two follow-ups to White Teeth did not quite live up to the hype of her debut - but Changing My Mind shows that you don't need to create a novel to capture the reader's imagination.

EMILY ASHTON Cobra commentator BOG-STANDARD BRITAIN: How Mediocrity Ruined This Great Nation. Quentin Letts/Constable, pounds 12.99. QUENTIN Letts is the King Cobra of parliamentary commentators. But it's not so much toxic venom that he squirts on his victims as a compound of derision and ridicule which can scar a politician's reputation for life. His new book is as explosive and readable as his daily parliamentary sketches. There is outrage on every page. As the title suggest, Letts laments slovenliness which has, he claims, dragged Britain down into the gutter. The 46-year-old yearns for a return not just to Received Pronunciation but to Queen's English, and lambasts "glottal-stop oikishness". He damns equality and the myth that no-one is better than anyone else and that everyone deserves prizes. And so it goes on remorselessly. CHRIS MONCRIEFF
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2009
Words:446
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