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Jane Austen News – Issue 128

The Jane Austen News has a growing reading list

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Mary B Gets Rave Reviews

The Jane Austen News has a growing reading listKatherine J. Chen has written a debut novel that may be of great interest to those Jane Austen fans who have always had a soft spot for the quiet and bookish Mary Bennet.

In Mary B, Mary Bennet finally gets what some reviewers have said is a level of revenge, and certainly a greater degree of understanding “in a story that inhabits and critiques Austen’s novel”. The beginning section of the book follows to a lesser or greater extent the plot of Pride and Prejudice (in Mary B Mr Collins is seen more as an outcast like Mary than as an object of ridicule and pomp), and then we see the story continue past that which we know.

As Mary B continues, Elizabeth finds that Pemberley is not so much of an escape as a “gilded cage”, while Lydia finds that society has little sympathy for a woman without money or education. As you can probably tell from those insights, the characters we know so well are changed somewhat in their behaviour and mannerisms in many places, and for this reason it will be a book that is likely to polarise Austen fans.

As for Mary herself, she uses her brains to pen a novel of her own about “the uncouth and vicious men who, despite their titles, have little learning and little breeding and absolutely no manners at all”. Mary cannot show all that she feels, she is still living in a man’s world after all, but Mary B does show the feisty, inner side of Mary that we don’t see a lot of in Pride and Prejudice. Mary B, say reviewers, does a good job of paying homage to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, whilst also critiquing any blind spots in Jane’s perspective, and adding depth to the middle Bennet sister.

Mary B was published by Random House on 24th July and is 336 pages long.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 128

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Jane Austen’s Fame and Fortune, Now and Then

  By Caroline Kerr Taylor It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen continues to grow in popularity as an author even as her novels turn 200 years old. After Shakespeare, many would pronounce Austen the most popular and widely acclaimed literary figure in history. Her six novels are some of the most widely read literature in the world often outselling the books of top contemporary authors. According to Nielsen BookScan research, for example, in 2002 U.S. book stores sold 110,000 copies of Pride and Prejudice while John Grisham’s, The Runaway Jury, (a #1 best seller in 1996) sold 73,337 copies. Further, in recent years there have been numerous new editions of her books, various translations, dozens of TV adaptations and feature films, in addition to prequels, sequels and spin-offs, as well as, new biographies and articles on Austen herself. Austen is unquestionably a literary star today, but how was she received in her own day? Did she enjoy similar adulation? Other 19th century literary stars such as Dickens or Scott did enjoy a great deal of celebrity in their lifetimes. Austen’s reception was more low key. It is important to note that her name was not attached to any of her novels. Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel, was signed “By A Lady”. All her other books were attributed “to the author” of her previously published books. This practice was not uncommon. Even Walter Scott, well known for his poetry, initially did not use his name when (more…)
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George IVRegency The Regency Era spanned the years 1795-1830. The era began with King George III being declared unfit to rule because of fits thought to be of some kind of inherent madness. This was until recenty thought to be the result of lead poisoning or more likely as porphyria. His son, George IV took over the throne and adopted the title the Prince Regent. It was in this period that Jane Austen was composing her novels. Emma is dedicated to the Prince Regent. The Regency era can be characterized as a time of great class distinction and intellectual richness. Industrialisation was growing, creating a greater distinction between the wealthy and poor. With new ways of obtaining wealth through industry came a desire for the astrocratic class to maintain its distinction of wealth and privilege. New money or money from trade or industry was looked down upon as less genteel. With these severe class divisions came a focus on showing immense respect to those occupying a higher class. It was considered more desirable to have a family fortune passed down from generations than via trade or labour. Families with fortunes from trade would often try to hide it by having their children educated to behave as gentry so they could seamlessly mix with the higher class. Popular culture emphasized opulence and a display of wealth. Britain was becoming a global trader and importation of goods from all over the world was becoming very common. People responded to this by decorating their homes (more…)
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