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Writing In Tough Times: Jane Austen in Bath and Southhampton

Jane Austen Writers' Club

Exclusive content by Rebecca Smith, author of The Jane Austen Writers’ Club

Rebecca Smith

One of the hardest things about writing is just keeping going.

Lots of people can write well, but to finish a novel, receive rejections, keep on editing and revising and then do it all over again takes real stamina. Most published authors’ first novels aren’t their first novels at all. Lots of creative young people want to write but give up in their twenties or thirties when early success eludes them and life takes over. Jane Austen could easily have given up, and at first glance it could seem that for a while she did. It’s easy to think that Jane Austen didn’t write much during her years in Bath and Southampton.

We know from Jane’s letters and family recollections that she was at first horrified about the move to Bath but then became resigned and even looked forward to being in the city and spending summers at the seaside:

Continue reading Writing In Tough Times: Jane Austen in Bath and Southhampton

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Our Books of the Year 2016

Books of the Year 2016It’s been an extremely varied 12 months here at the Jane Austen Gift Shop as far as reading matter goes… Our biggest sellers have been the Jane Austen Classic Colouring Book and the Pride and Prejudice Colouring Classic. Whether young or old, it’s hard to resist getting out the pencils, paints or crayons to add a splash of colour to these enchanting illustrations. Some said the colouring craze was just a passing fancy, but if the popularity of these titles is anything to go by, there’s plenty of life in it yet, especially among Jane Austen fans! Of the official releases, you certainly enjoyed The Annotated Emma. This ingenious and illuminating book book pairs the full original text with explanations of historical context, maps and illustrations, definitions of historical terms and concepts, comments and analysis and cross-referencing to Jane’s other novels, letters and writings. The result is almost like reading the novel for the first time, and it’s full of information on everything from English attitudes towards gypsies to the social status of spinsters and illegitimate children, to the shopping habits of fashionable ladies. A gourmet feast for Janeites, it’s one of those books that is sure to drive your friends mad, as you constantly stop and them and say: “Did you know this?” The big movie news of the year was the release of Love and Friendship, based on Jane’s early work Lady Susan. If that’s inspired you to catch up (or re-acquaint yourself) with the juvenilia, we have (more…)
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The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen: A Review

The List Lover's Guide to Jane AustenThe List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen I am a list maker. Shopping lists, packing lists, gift lists, to-do lists– you name it. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing things off. As I get older and my memory gets worse, I also enjoy knowing that I’m not forgetting things that need to be done. Of course, this creates a new category of things-I-forgot-to-put-on-my-first-list lists, but that’s another story. The story I’m writing about today is the story of Jane and her novels. One might think that a book of lists would be boring. Perhaps even as dry as reading the outline of a lecture– especially for those who already have a good grasp on Jane’s life. The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen, however, is anything but dry or boring. Clearly a work of love and dedication, author Joan Strasbaugh has gathered not only what we do know (lists of all locations in each novel, lists of Jane’s residences) but also pulled together an impressive array of, if not unknown, unconsidered variables. There are lists of all of Jane’s relatives that she had contact with during her life. There are lists of neighbors, lists of suitors (both those whose hearts Jane broke and those who broke Jane’s heart), her music, her favourite foods and even her hairstyles! I was hooked. Punctuated with period illustrations as well as whimsical original art, the lists are ordered quite methodically (see the “list” of contents at the front of the (more…)
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So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life, A Review

So JaneThis Christmas I was given a copy of Hollie Keith’s book, So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life. This little book is filled with projects, recipes and gift item ideas to fill every aspect of your home and life. While most of the projects are not Austen-era reproductions, they are modern interpretations which keep an eye on the past. Whimsical and romantic in nature, there are crafts and recipes for every age and skill level, along with a myriad of mediums to choose from. Hand stitched, novel themed placemats share pages with dainty, appliqued egg cosies. I ♥ Darcy pillows and rose scented soaps share space with lacy aprons, wreaths and book marks. Vintage treasures, rejuventated “in a style entirely new” and new-on-the-market finds are combined with traditional craft supplies so that each project can be tailored to your personal whims and comfort level. Patterns and templates provided in the back of the book take the guesswork out of each set of instructions, while step by step photographs guide you through any difficulty. The recipes in this book were curated by Jennifer Adams, no Austen newcomer herself. Jennifer is the author of Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen as well as the Little Miss Austen Baby Lit board books, published by the same company (Gibbs-Smith). Here, her 32 recipes, inspired by Jane Austen’s novels and time period, are broken into chapters with corresponding crafts and include breakfast, teatime, dinner, picnic, ball and cottage inspired meals. The photographs (more…)
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Jane Austen and the State of the Nation by Sheryl Craig: a Review by Laura Boyle

Jane Austen and the State of the nation by Sheryl Craig Jane Austen is universally acknowledged as an excellent writer with a fine grasp of the human condition. Her ever increasing number of fans, her inclusion in nearly every list of worthy writers and English Literature syllabi, her marketability and timeless appeal have created what might be called an international mania. Many would attribute her success to her wit and way with words, others to the age old stories of love and romance that she tells. It seems, however, as if there was more, much more, just beneath the surface: undertones and even overt messages that Jane Austen’s readers would have seen, but which are, for the most part, lost to today’s readers. After all, as Jane herself (in the guise of omniscient narrator) explains in Northanger Abbey: “Oh! It is only a novel!…It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.” I have, over the past few months, had the great privilege of first hearing and then reading the works of celebrated Austen scholar and international speaker, Dr. Sheryl Craig. The talk she addressed to our JASNA gathering in November, entitled “So Ended a Marriage”, looked at Mansfield Park in light of the (more…)
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The Love of Strangers – What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen’s England

1815 was of course the year that Jane Austen’s Emma was first published, but in 2015 another important, unpublished work from the period surfaced – the diary of a young Muslim student named Mirza Salih Shirazi. His diary tells the real-life story of six scholars enjoying the very best of Regency life in England. The Love of Strangers by Nile Green delves into that forgotten diary, making fascinating comparisons between the experiences described by Mirza Salih, the characters in Jane Austen’s novels, and the life she herself lived. Along with his five Muslim companions, Mirza Salih had arrived in London in the fall of 1815, a few months before the novel was published. They lodged with their aptly named chaperone, Mr. D’Arcy (though not Darcy), in his splendid Regency bachelor pad overlooking Leicester Square. Jane Austen was also living in London’s West End that season, staying on Sloane Street with her brother, Henry. The Iranians were the first Muslims ever to study in western Europe and they had just wandered right into Jane Austen’s milieu. It was to shape their entire experience of English life. Nile Green’s book offers Janeites a rare opportunity to experience Regency England from an entirely new cultural perspective. From nights at the opera to taking the waters in Bath, The Love of Strangers is a unique chronicle of the frustrations, fellowship and the search for love and learning in a strange new land. Nile Green is professor of history at UCLA. His many books include The Love of Strangers and  Sufism: A (more…)
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Growing Older with Jane Austen, by Maggie Lane: A Review

growing older with jane austenGrowing Older with Jane Austen, by Maggie Lane Maggie Lane is the author of Jane Austen’s World and Understanding Austen. She has lectured on aspects of Jane Austen’s life and novels to the Jane Austen Societies of the UK, Canada, the U.S., and Australia, is the editor of the Jane Austen Society newsletter, and is consultant editor to the global Regency World magazine. Already the author of a dizzying number of fascinating books about Jane Austen’s life and environment, in Growing Older with Jane Austen, she offers this new look at a subject that permeates all of Austen’s novels, and yet, has remained, until now, relatively untouched by scholars. There is no doubt that Jane Austen is enduringly popular with both a general readership and academics. But amid the wealth of approaches to her life and work, no one has made a full-length study of the concept of aging in her novels, and this book sets out to fill that gap. With chapters on the loss of youth and beauty, old wives, old maids, merry widows, and dowager despots, the theme allows for a lively exploration of many of Austen’s most memorable characters. There are also chapters on hypochondria and illness, age and poverty, and death and wills. The book draws on the six novels, major literary fragments, Austen’s own letters, and the reminiscences of family members and contemporaries. Real-life examples are used to underline the fidelity of Austen’s fictional representation. Austen’s wry approach to the perils and consolations of growing older (more…)
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A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review

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A Jane Austen Christmas – A Review by Laura Boyle

Award winning regency author Maria Grace has pulled out the stops this season, delivering A Jane Austen Christmas in time for holiday gift giving (and receiving!) Eager to beef up my own knowledge of Regency holiday traditions, I ordered this little volume the first week of December, based on the preview given on Amazon.com. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding our own site listed as a resource (accessed according to the time stamp, only weeks before) in the very extensive bibliography given. It is clear that this was a “full steam ahead” project from the Austen oriented “White Soup Press”. Continue reading A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review