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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

The Spirituality of Jane Austen

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

Paula Hollingsworth shows how Jane Austen’s faith and spirituality runs through all her work and her life.  It is all too easy to assume because Austen makes fun of Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice that she is making fun of faith and religion in general.  But if you look more closely you will see that she only makes fun of Mr Collins in social situations and we never see him in church or about his parish duties.

Mansfield Park is probably the most spiritual of the novels and it shows clearly the importance of spirituality in daily life.  Fanny and Edmund are excellent examples of faith and Christian principles in action.  They do not impose their believes on other people but they set a good example to everyone else with whom they come in contact.

The author shows that Austen makes fun of the church which allows such people as Mr Collins and Mr Elton to hold office but she does also show how spirituality and faith are so important to living a good and virtuous life without being pious or pompous.

This is a fascinating book and it has shown me how there is always something new to see in Austen’s six novels and I shall read them with fresh eyes having read the book.  It includes a reading list and an index and is a must for anyone who loves Jane Austen and books about books.

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The Jane Austen Writers' Club: Inspiration and Advice from the World?s Best-loved Novelist

Whether or not you are a writer, this is a fascinating read.  It shows, by reference to Jane Austen’s work, how to write fiction.  It includes lots of extracts from Austen’s published novels as well as the juvenilia and unfinished novels and her letters.  There are plenty of exercises for the reader to complete as well.

What I loved about this book is that it celebrates Austen’s writing and shows how universal her stories are.  The bare bones of the stories can be used at any era and in any genre.  The ways in which Austen creates her characters and uses them to illustrate the themes of her novels is examined and the same techniques can be used when writing fiction today, two hundred years later.

This book will appeal to novice and experienced writers as well as those who love Jane Austen’s work. It is a book that I can see I shall be constantly dipping into when I want inspiration for writing  or want a Jane Austen fix.

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Eligible

I am always intrigued by retellings, sequels and prequels to Jane Austen’s novels and especially those which relate to ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  In many ways authors are treading on dangerous ground even attempting to draw on classic novels.  However such works can encourage people  to read the originals for themselves.  I think the author has achieved a novel which is worth reading in its own right as well as a modern retelling of the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ story.  It does serve to show how plots can translate from one setting to another and from one era to another.

I thought this was a very good book – albeit a trifle long.  The author has been faithful to the essence of the original though some of the worst aspects of modern Western society seem to have been brought into play.  Chip Bingley has become a media star through a reality TV series ‘Eligible’.  Now he has taken up a job in a hospital in Cincinnati where Jane and Liz are currently living in order to help look after their father who is recovering from a heart bypass.

The five sisters – Jane, Liz, Mary, Kitty and Lydia are older than their counterparts.  Jane and Liz both have jobs but no partners.  Mary, Kitty and Lydia still live at home – dependent on their parents.  Their house is a mess because none of its occupants does any housework. What happens when Jane falls for Chip Bingley and Liz falls out with Fitzwilliam Darcy is an entertaining and amusing story.

Jane Austen purists will almost certainly throw up their hands in horror and I felt that the characters had a few more rough edges that were apparent in the original.  One thing which does stand out for me is the letter Darcy writes to Liz after the first proposal – I thought this was really well done and I went back and read it again. Overall this book is very well worth reading in its own right as well as because it is a retelling of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

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The Cambridge Companion to 'Emma' (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

I found this an interesting collection of essays.  I first read Jane Austen’s Emma at school for A level and I know I didn’t appreciate it properly until I was older.  The book is so tightly plotted and so carefully worded that there are so many nuances a reader misses on first reading.  This book drew my attention to aspects of the novel which even after several readings I had not fully appreciated.

There are essays here about the music in the novel – especially in relation to Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill; about the riddles and charades which mislead Emma about Mr Elton and Harriet; about the historical context and the location of the book.  I found this book particularly enlightening about the dialogue – especially the way the clues are planted about the real relationship between Frank and Jane.

If you don’t like deconstructing novels then this probably isn’t the book for you but I find reading literary criticism enhances my enjoyment of novels and I’m sure I shall be returning to this one again and again.  There are notes on each section and a reading list as well as an index.

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The Cambridge Companion to 'Pride and Prejudice' (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

This is a collection of fifteen essays about various aspects of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  I found it an interesting read and it brought out aspects of the novel which I hadn’t considered before.

I was especially interested by the essay entitled ‘Austen’s Minimalism’ because I hadn’t really noticed that she often doesn’t say where her characters are when they are talking.  The background to most of the scenes is minimally sketched in.  She doesn’t give us long descriptions of clothes, scenery and the interiors of houses.  In spite of this most readers have in their heads what they think the background is like and how the characters are dressed and what they look like.

I was also interested in the essay about sequels and prequels to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as have read a few of these and have loved some and hated others. As the essay correctly says, Austen’s characters are universal and can translate to the twenty first century and beyond as well as to any country in the world.

If you love ‘Pride and Prejudice’ then you will enjoy this book which is aimed at the academic and the general reader alike.  There is a guide to further reading and an index as well as an interesting preface by the editor of this volume, Janet Todd.

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MR DARCY'S DAUGHTERS: A DARCY NOVEL

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have read it twice and have recently listened to the audio book edition..  I think the author has been sensible in leaving the major Pride and Prejudice characters in the background and imagining how the children of Darcy and Elizabeth might have turned out.

Camilla – the second child – is very like her mother and Letitia – the oldest – reminded me of Mary – Elizabeth’s blue stocking sister.  The plot and its ramifications grows out of the characters of the main protagonists and the scrapes they get themselves into.  What the book does highlight well are the changes in morals and the treatment and behaviour of women by 1818 – 3 years after Waterloo.  The eighteenth century ways are disappearing and people are becoming more prudish and less tolerant.  These shifts in themselves account for the changes in behaviour of Mr and Mrs Gardiner and the former Colonel Fitzwilliam.

The book is well written and the characters believable.  Jane Austen it isn’t and nor is it meant to be but I think it comes close to being similar to the book Jane Austen might have written if she had been writing today.

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MR DARCY'S DRAMA (The Darcy Novellas Book 4)

This is number four in the Darcy Novellas series which features Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy and various other Austen characters as well as new characters, some of which also appear in the author’s six Darcy themed novels.  Mr Darcy’s Drama can be read as a standalone story as can all the others including the novels.  In this story Mr and Mrs Darcy are confined to Pemberley because of bad weather along with some guests and their daughters’ newly appointed governess – Theodosia Beckford, a gentlewoman fallen on hard times.

The party decide to put in a play aided by a large collection of theatrical and historical costumes.  Theodosia has written a play which they all fall on with glee as it is a melodrama with plenty of opportunities for everyone to show off their acting skills.  This is an entertaining and light-hearted read for anyone who enjoys Jane Austen spin offs as well as anyone who enjoys historical novels with a little humour.

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