I love Jane Austen. I discovered Pride & Prejudice in high school, and I've read all six of her novels many, many, many times. I'm somewhat of an Austen purist in that I don't really get into all the spin-off books that are popular nowadays. I am fascinated, however, by the Janeite culture, and I recently read a few books in this area. If you love Jane Austen, then you might consider reading one of these books.
Okay, we'll get this one out of the way first because it really does fall more under the category of "spin-off novels." In a nutshell, P..D. James sets a run-of-the-mill murder mystery in the world of Pride & Prejudice. Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for several years and are on the verge of giving a ball when Lydia screeches up in a carriage, screaming that her husband is dead. It is a fairly good mystery, but I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't used the characters from Pride & Prejudice. That may just be my Austen purist-ness, but I think it would have been even better if it had made up totally new characters rather than piggybacking on Austen's.
This book begins with Austen's life and the publication of her books. It then follows those books as they waxed and waned in popularity over the ensuing centuries. Jane Austen and her novels are such an ingrained part of our culture today - but how did they become that way? That's the question that this book seeks to answer, and it does it spectacularly well. It also goes beyond the books to Austen's letters and possessions that she left to various family members, as well as the places she called home. This book is a fascinating look at how one author became a household name, even though she lived so long ago.
And now that Jane Austen is such a part of our culture, what exactly does that entail? Deborah Yaffe investigates and participates in some of the activities that today's Janeites embrace. She buys a full Regency dress (complete with corset) in order to attend the annual JASNA ball. She talks to Janeites all over the country, including some with unusual views (Darcy was autistic? Jane's novels all have a secret, seedier meaning?). Personally, I find this sort of investigative, participatory, memoir-ish writing completely fascinating, and even more so when it's about one of my favorite writers. This book was a 5-star read for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever wished to be part of Jane's world (or has watched the wet-shirt scene multiple times. . .).
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.