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Baby Names for Book Lovers

Regency caps

Baby Names for Book Lovers

baby-reading-bookAt the Jane Austen Centre we’ve had a fair few visitors who tell us that they were named after one of Jane’s heroines, or that they themselves named one of their children after Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood, so at the Jane Austen News we were interested to read through a list that Bustle recently published with suggestions on what the ideal baby name for a literature fan might be.

Continue reading Baby Names for Book Lovers

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Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map

Jane Austen News

Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map

Continue reading Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map

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Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues – A Review

dangerous to know

dangerous to knowDangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues

Sketching the Characters of Jane Austen’s Bad Boys!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

OVERVIEW:

After delivering a splendidly successful and praiseworthy short story anthology devoted to Mr. Darcy, editor Christina Boyd and a team of skilled and imaginative authors have decided to join forces again for Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues. This time to divulge the inner workings, untold heartaches, and sometimes scandalous pasts of Jane Austen’s anti-heroes, villains, and charming scoundrels. Eleven roguish characters, eleven talented authors, and eleven fascinating tales of human nature and romance. However the question does remain – can these bad boys be redeemed?

MY READING EXPERIENCE:

All stories in this anthology take place during the Regency period – either during, before, or slightly after the original stories’ timeline. Some of the characters featured in this collection are truly nefarious villains like George Wickham, Henry Crawford, and Captain Tilney, and some are more tame with their bad behavior such as Frank Churchill, John Thorpe, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. In addition, some are gentlemen rogues from the previous generation – Sir Walter Elliot and General Tilney (we know those two are far from innocent!)

I read all the stories in order and I thought it was very clever that they were arranged in accordance with the order of novels published by Jane Austen (starting with Sense and Sensibility and ending with Northanger Abbey). The stories ranged from 22 to 38 pages in length and I mostly read one to two stories in each sitting. (I enjoyed savouring each story and reflecting on it before diving into the next one.) If I were to give a star rating for each individual story, there would be mostly 5 star ratings for all with just one 4.5 or 4 star rating among the group.

MY ASSESSMENT:

How incredibly excited I am that an anthology like this finally exists! Although I adore Mr. Darcy and love reading stories from his point of view, I love it even more when authors shine their spotlights on and flesh out some of Jane Austen’s other creations. Just like with The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know met and exceeded my high expectations and hopeful desires. Each story was thoughtfully composed, skillfully executed, and wonderfully plausible. In addition, I loved the elegant formatting of this compilation and I appreciated all the extra touches like the mature content rating system, foreword, acknowledgments, and informative characters introductions.

However, what I admired and loved most about this anthology was the diverse and unique treatment these rakes and rogues received by the pens of these authors. Some authors revealed the past and gave new understanding of why these characters became unscrupulous cads, while others illustrated how even these hardened rakes can find themselves caught unawares by stirrings of a powerful love. I greatly enjoyed the many creative ways these authors told their tales – the backstories they provided, the clever twists they employed, and the new characters they introduced. I also appreciated the fact that not all these characters were redeemed, and not all lived their lives happily-ever-after – they can’t be like Jane Bennet and make them all good. 😉 I admired the honesty about characters and their natures, but I must admit my romantic heart loved seeing some tender tales of how the love of a good woman can irrevocably change a man. 🙂

I loved the feelings that these stories evoked in me, and how these thoughtful character developments induced me to feel more sympathy and compassion for these characters than I have ever felt before. Yes, even for the truly nefarious rogues! Their pain and disappointment, their insecurity and jealousy, their remorse and regret, their infatuation and devotion were all sensitively rendered and palpably felt.

CONCLUSION:

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues is another sensational release from Christina Boyd and her team! While this anthology highlights Jane Austen’s bad boys, it also pays tribute to her powers of perception and observations of human nature. I commend Christina and all the talented authors of this anthology for constructing another insightful, stimulating, and remarkably high-caliber anthology for we readers to enjoy! I emphatically recommend!

NOTE: With some stories marked “mature,” I’d recommend this story for mature readers.

***

Meredith is the blogger behind this wonderful Dangerous To Know post from Austenesque Reviews, shared with us with her kind permission. Austenesque Reviews was founded in 2009 as a blog devoted to the reading and reviewing the hordes of Austenesque novels that are recently published, as well as the ones that were published years ago.

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An Interview With Helena Kelly, Author of Jane Austen the Secret Radical

Jane Austen the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly

An Interview With Helena Kelly, Author of Jane Austen the Secret Radical

Helena Kelly’s book, Jane Austen the Secret Radical,  began an interesting debate around the beloved Regency author when it was released in November 2016.  Kelly’s book explored Jane Austen as a radical, spirited and politically engaged writer, and this was a shock for
those people who’d only thought of Jane as a tranquil, smiling woman who spent her time penning purely romantic novels.

After receiving a review copy of this brilliant work, and after reading its original analysis, Jane Austen blogger Maria Grazia ended up with a few questions she wanted to ask Helena Kelly. So she wrote them down and was graciously granted the answers. Here’s the interview that resulted.

***

Hello Helena and welcome to our online Jane Austen book club! My first question is … I’ve always thought Jane Austen was rather revolutionary, but now you’ve taken a step ahead of me: a radical? 

Hello, and thank you for inviting me! The title Jane Austen the Secret Radical isn’t actually mine, but it is a good choice for the book. I don’t know that Austen wanted to overturn things, but she did want to dig down and examine them, to show people New Jane Austen portraithow they actually worked, and that’s what radicalism is about, isn’t it, getting down to the ‘radix’, the root of things.

I totally agree with you, of course. But when and how exactly did you come to realize her novels are not simply grand houses, balls and dashing heroes? 

Much as I loved – and still love – the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, I was soon introduced to a very different side of Austen. We studied Mansfield Park for A-Level; a novel which has a very un-dashing hero, only one ball, and a heroine who doesn’t end up in the big house. I really struggled with Mansfield Park and I suppose I’ve been trying to bring those two very different sides of Austen into some kind of balance ever since! 

This is more a request for confirmation, then a real question. Something I want to discuss with you. I find that Jane Austen’s  stubborn wish to write and publish novels is her first political statement and her most revolutionary act as a woman living in that time and that place.  Then came her refusal to marry.  Weren’t those truly revolutionary acts?

Certainly Austen was stubborn about her writing; hugely stubborn. She had to endure a lot of disappointments – as you probably know, Susan (almost certainly Northanger Abbey) was accepted by a publisher in 1803 but didn’t appear. She wrote to the publishers in 1809, trying to persuade them to publish the novel and her letter is shockingly forceful and really quite aggressive. Jane Austen the Secret Radical begins with her writing that letter. But she was less of a maverick than people often think; she grew up reading quite a number of successful women novelists, several of whom published under their own names. Novel-writing was a reasonably acceptable occupation for women, though (like most female occupations) not highly-valued.

With regards to marriage, there’s not any real evidence for the one-night engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither; the ‘proof’ seems to have been pieced together by a niece who wasn’t even born at the time of the engagement. So it’s possible no one ever proposed to Austen at all! 

Would she have married if the right man had come along? Maybe. But she’d seen enough of the dangers of marriage and the demands of endless child-bearing to have made her cautious. 

Among the several serious subjects Austen dealt with in her major novels – feminism, slavery, abuse, poverty, power – which is the most revolutionary and dangerous of all in your opinion?

In Mansfield Park Austen doesn’t just confront the subject of slavery, but of the Church of England’s active involvement in slavery. To take the Church to task like this really was incendiary, and it’s no coincidence, I think, that Mansfield Park is the only one of her novels which wasn’t reviewed on publication. In fact, there seems to have been something of a conspiracy of silence about it.

Which is  her most revolutionary novel?  What about her most radical heroine, instead?

As above, Mansfield Park – it’s profoundly anti-establishment. The heroine Fanny Price, though, embraces Mansfield Park and everything it stands for. I think the most radical heroine is probably Elizabeth Bennet – she who loves to question, to debate, to laugh at power and challenge authority to justify itself.

I know you teach Austen to hundreds of people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. What about one or two  tips to poor me attempting to teach Austen – among other classics – to the most difficult audience one can expect, I mean teenagers and mostly boys? 

My students have been overwhelmingly female and I think even men who do enjoy Austen tend not to come to her until Wentworthsthey’re older. So many people already ‘know’ what they’re going to find in the novels (grand houses, balls, and dashing heroes, as you say above). I’m always a bit hesitant about telling other people how to teach, but since you’ve asked for advice, I reckon start them off with Persuasion, if at all possible – it has some really manly men in it, with all those naval officers and there’s a great adaptation of it starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds which really foregrounds the war. Go for the bits that aren’t at all romantic and work backwards from there. The popular image does get in the way of the text.

May I ask  you what you think of the great deal of  Jane Austen fan fiction and film adaptations of the recent years? Do they contribute to the popularity of her work or do they contribute to their misinterpretation? 

Both! I’m really torn on this question, to be honest.

As I said above, the popular picture of Austen does conceal the text. But many of adaptations and the continuations and sequels and so on are really fun and they make Austen accessible; those aren’t bad things. I’ve just finished reading a book called Lydia by Natasha Farrant which I very much enjoyed and which I think would be a great ‘gateway’ book into the original novels. And then, look at something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – it’s absurd but at the same time anyone reading it has read a good three-quarters of Austen’s novel. Plus, of course, it makes explicit the sense of external menace in the book, though Austen’s characters are bothered about the French, not the zombie hordes!

But, yes, I suppose I’d like to see less romance, and more of the grittier adaptations, like the 1999 Mansfield Park, directed by Patricia Rozema. The Jane Austen conjured up by the adaptions, etc. doesn’t bear all that much resemblance to the authoress of the novels!

So, in conclusion, why did you feel the need to write your “ Jane Austen The Secret Radical”? 

As your readers will know, the Bank of England is about to introduce a new £10 note next year, with Jane Austen on. Except it’s not really Jane Austen. It’s an idealized portrait that was commissioned fifty years after she died, and in the background is a picture of a big house which Austen never actually lived in. It’s such a reductive image of who she was and what her novels are doing that I thought it was time for a corrective!     

 

 

Helena Kelly holds degrees in Classics and English from Oxford and King’s College London. She teaches Austen at an Oxford summer school, and for a programme for American visiting students in Bath. She has taught Austen to hundreds of people, of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds. Jane Austen The Secret Radical is her first book.

***

This interview was first published online on Maria’s My Jane Austen Book Club blog, and reproduced here with her kind permission.

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The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen: A Review

The List Lover's Guide to Jane Austen

The 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.

41CI48PE9nL._SX284_BO1,204,203,200_

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 book) and highlighted with extracts from Jane’s own letters and novels wherever appropriate (most of the book!) I wished that Ms. Strasbaugh had included more of the dates and recipients of the letters, though most were to her sister Cassandra, and the dates can be had by searching either the Republic of Pemberley’s Janeinfo page, which has digitized many of the letters, or by searching through the published Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre LeFaye and available from Oxford University Press.

This is not a long read, nor a scholarly one. You might not use it to source biographical information (though the bibliographical “list” provided at the back of the book could probably set you in the right direction) but if you want to learn something new about Jane, or view her works and life in a different light, this book is for you. It should definitely be on your list of what to give the Janeite who has everything!

 

  • List Price: £8.99
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (25 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402282036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402282034

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

 

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Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace: A Review

Mistaking Her Character

Mistaking+Her+Character+LgMistaking Her Character- A Review by Laura Hartness

Author Maria Grace returns to the world of Austenesque fiction in her latest novel, Mistaking Her Character. As in the original Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, we find Lady Catherine de Bourgh wielding strong command over the grand Rosings Park estate and all who are associated with it. Her daughter Anne is as sickly as a Janeite could imagine, but becomes more afflicted as the story progresses. Maria Grace’s departures from the original text include assigning the profession of medical doctor to Mr. Bennet, and the role of stepmother (to some of the Bennet girls) to Mrs. Bennet. However, Wickham remains a cad, Jane a delight and Mr. Collins the supreme adulator to his benefactress, so on the whole, most remain true to their original characteristics.

As Anne’s health further declines, Dr. Bennet and Elizabeth are needed in increasing measure for medical care. While at Rosings, Elizabeth becomes acquainted with Fitzwilliam Darcy and becomes attracted to this dashing, powerful heir of Pemberley. The quandary is, Lady Catherine still insists that he will ultimately marry Anne, for shrouded reasons that are revealed later in the novel. Her domineering nature is even stronger in Mistaking Her Character, and this temperament begins to manifest itself in Anne as well. Before long, it seems that the lives of Elizabeth, Darcy, Dr. Bennet and others will be completely entwined about the fingers of the De Bourgh women. They are insistent, powerful, selfish and unsympathetic to those around them.

On the whole I greatly enjoyed Mistaking Her Character. I appreciated how Maria Grace retained most of Austen’s characterizations, so I was a bit disappointed that Darcy was seen to be so agreeable, so early in Elizabeth’s eyes. It seemed that they became enamored with each other in a much quicker fashion than in Pride and Prejudice. This isn’t a problem, but I always enjoy the tension between them before they ultimately come together. However, there is enough tension to go around in this story—perhaps adding more friction between the lead characters would have been too much.

I was also surprised at the personalities of Elizabeth and her father. She allowed herself to be excessively oppressed for far too long, in my opinion. She did prove to be a strong woman of substance, evidenced by the fact that Dr. Bennet would permit no other daughter to attend him while he worked. He knew she had the constitution for blood, other bodily fluids and medical emergencies, unlike her sisters. Elizabeth does have the capacity to stand up to Lady Catherine, as seen in the confrontation that inspired the book’s title. However, I felt that she spent an inordinate number of days without asserting herself, way too much time in silent misery because of her situation. It seemed inconsistent with her true nature.

Part of this was perpetuated by her love for her self-centered, despicable father and her desire to obey him. His need to genuflect to Lady Catherine becomes paramount, and he behaves badly toward Elizabeth, justified by his loyalty to Catherine. When plans go awry, he lays blame at Elizabeth’s feet far more often than is reasonable. While I agree that the original Mr. Bennet wasn’t the best father in the world, this iteration of him in Mistaking Her Character goes far beyond that failing. Unlike my opinion about Elizabeth, this observation of Dr. Bennet isn’t a negative criticism; it just gives the character a different flavor.

I think my only other negative criticism would be in the length of time the story hovers over Elizabeth’s period as nursemaid to Anne. It seemed significantly long to me, and I felt that the plot dragged during that substantial portion of the start of the novel. The De Bourghs’ dominance over those around them was fatiguing. However, as the story progresses, the plot develops with Elizabeth’s sister Lydia (who is as ridiculous as ever), the lecherous Wickham and some wonderfully loyal, scheming house servants. The book took a dramatic turn that I enjoyed immensely. Elizabeth’s fate begins to change drastically, Darcy runs to play hero, and more than one character gets their comeuppance. It was delightfully entertaining.

As has been the case with other Maria Grace novels, the romance element of Mistaking Her Character is certainly there, but she is able to convey concepts and passion without gratuitous details. I found the content to be at a solid PG level, very tastefully done but delicious at the same time. I feel more than comfortable recommending this to any adult reader, conservative or no. Mistaking Her Character had a slightly darker in tone than other Maria Grace novels that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the others, this was an interesting departure for her. I understand that this is the first title in her Queen of Rosings Park series, and I look forward to seeing where she plans to take us next.

  • List Price: Kindle Edition £2.49/Paperback £10.99
  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: White Soup Press (18 May 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692453547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692453544

Laura Hartness is the writer at The Calico Critic. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons and three cats. In addition to her review work, she is also employed with PDgo.com and enjoys playing the French Horn in local ensembles. This review originally appeared on The Calico Critic as part of a virtual book tour. It is used here with permission.

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Growing Older with Jane Austen, by Maggie Lane: A Review

growing older with jane austen

indexGrowing 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 is bound to strike chords with many.

Fellow editors at Jane Austen’s Regency World read and enjoyed this new look at Austen’s works, noting, ‘It is a fascinating read, allowing a great parade of characters to take their turn centre-stage. Lane covers all aspects of older age in this endlessly entertaining book – the chapters entitled ‘The Loss of Youth and Beauty’ and ‘Not the Only Widow in Bath’ are particularly revealing. Illness and death are treated with an Austenian mixture of wit and sensitivity – one cannot help but feel that Jane would have approved of such a lively study of “gout and decrepitude” and all the other ailments, real and imaginary, that assail her senior citizens.’

  • List Price: £16.99
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (29 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719806976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719806971

JARW75-COVER-WEB-204x300Review quoted from Jane Austen’s Regency World and printed here with permission.

Subscribe today, or purchase issues individually from our giftshop. Jane Austen’s Regency World is published in Britain as the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre. It is the only full-colour, must-read, glossy magazine for fans of the world’s favourite author – delivered to your doorstep every two months direct from Bath, England. Fascinating articles highlight all aspects of Regency life, plus reports from Austen societies in the UK, US and Australia; news, letters, book reviews, quiz and much, much more!

 

 

 

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Lizzy & Jane by by Katherine Reay

indexA review by Meredith Esparza

“Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.”

Lizzy – a thirty-three-year-old gifted New York City chef who seems to have temporarily lost her magic in the kitchen. Her restaurant isn’t packed, her dishes aren’t as focused and vibrant, and her financial backer thinks she is distracted by events in her personal life.

Jane – Lizzy’s older sister. A mother of two, who, at the age of forty-one, is battling the very terrifying and unpredictable disease known as cancer. While Jane’s cancer isn’t aggressive and was diagnosed at an early stage it has created a vast amount of tension and upheaval to every aspect of her life.

Lizzy and Jane – sisters who lost their mother to cancer fifteen years ago and still have emotional scars that have not yet healed. Jane left home at eighteen and never came to visit while their mom was sick. Lizzy, feeling abandoned by her sister, left home as well and the two now have a very distant and cold relationship full of unresolved issues and pain. But due to the situations in both their lives they are brought together for an extended visit…

With Dear Mr. Knightley, we’ve seen how skilled story-teller, Katherine Reay, can take a very serious and difficult situation like growing up in the foster system, and pen a heartfelt and honest story full of challenge, growth, and realism. She does the same with Lizzy and Jane. Cancer and overcoming fear and grief are very tough and sometimes off-putting subjects, but blended with Ms. Reay’s thoughtful and sensitive prose and accessible characters, these subjects are more inspiring and uplifting than they are depressing and dark.

As with Dear Mr. Knightley, my favorite part of the story was witnessing the main character’s emotional journey and growth. Their mother’s death affected Lizzy and Jane in so many ways; they lost a lot more than their mother when she died. I especially enjoyed Lizzy’s journey to find herself and discover what she was missing. When Lizzy traveled to Seattle to visit her family, she was hoping to solve her problems with cooking and find her magic again, but she ended up learning so much more, she ended up finding love, family, forgiveness, and a life.

It was so easy to fall in love with the characters in this story – my heart was engaged by each and every one of them and I thoroughly enjoyed observing how they grew closer together. Besides her relationship with Jane, I enjoyed seeing Lizzy’s interactions and friendships with Nick, a single father who feels guilty about a past mistake, and Cecilia, a nurse at the infusion center with so much heart and spirit. I enjoyed how so many characters connected to each other through Jane Austen and other authors; and I loved how Jane Austen was so full of meaning and history to both Lizzy and Jane (there are plenty of fun nods to Jane Austen for readers to discover!) And the food references and descriptions were so delectably tempting! Whether it was food Lizzy was preparing, eating at a restaurant, or purchasing at a market – my senses were tingling with all the fresh, vivid, and tantalizing ingredients described. (I think I may have learned a cooking trick or two, as well!) And while I loved how this tale integrated so many diverse elements, I did sometimes find myself wanting a little more attention and page time devoted to certain aspects of the story.

Profound, perceptive, and poignant – Katherine Reay once again delivers a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make your eyes well up with tears, and in this case, give you plenty of food for thought! An incredible read!

  • RRP: £9.99
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401689736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401689735

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Meredith Esparza is music studio director and private piano instructor living off the coast of North Carolina with her very own Mr. Bingley.  She is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen and an avid reader.  For more than five years her blog, Austenesque Reviews has been devoted to the reading and reviewing of numerous Jane Austen sequels, fan-fiction, and para-literature.  She loves being able to connect with readers and authors online through a shared love and admiration for Jane Austen.  Visit Meredith at her blog Austenesque Reviews, follow her on Twitter as @austenesque and on Facebook as Austenesque Reviews.