Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Salon: Jane Austen

Welcome to the Sunday Salon, a group of readers who all try to set aside a good chunk of time each Sunday to read and to write about what we read. To visit the other participants, click on the Sunday Salon button! Everyone has different reading & writing styles, you're sure to read about some great book or author that would be perfect for you!
My mother, who is also an avid reader, and I were talking yesterday about some books that have become movies, movies about authors, etc. and of course, Jane Austen came up. Neither of us has read all of her books, but we have enjoyed the ones we have! We've both seen all the movies & miniseries of all the books, and read some of what I will call the "spin-offs". What we both want to know is, "What is the current obsession with Jane Austen?" Are we looking to hark back to what we perceive as a simpler time? Do people need more romance in their life? Do the crazy family members, money problems, manipulative neighbors/community members make us appreciate or hide out from our own, similar situations? I don't know why, but it seems like Jane has been everywhere for the past year or so, even down to the Which Jane Austen Heroine quiz that so many bloggers have posted! I thought for today I'd mention a few of the Jane Austen-inspired books that are out there, most based on Pride & Prejudice and the man many perceive as the ultimate, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. It totally blew my mind to see that Barnes & Noble has an entire Jane Austen section just for these spin-offs!
The first Jane spin-off I ever read was Pemberley: or Pride & Prejudice continued by Emma Tennant. It's exactly what it sounds like, life one year after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy. Christmas is coming, along with a flood of relations from both the Bennet & Darcy families. To top the strain of the holiday season, Elizabeth & Darcy are having communication problems & Elizabeth is feeling inferior because she has yet to conceive a child, while her sister Jane has already had her first baby. It is written somewhat in the old-fashioned Austen style, and the issues and characters seem believable and carried through from Pride & Prejudice.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler is very well known, and a big best-seller that became a movie. Both were good, not great, at least for me. After seeing the movie, I felt like I understood the book characters a little more, which NEVER happens to me. Maybe I just wasn't as into the book as I normally would be, but I remember being excited to read it, because it was highly recommended by a friend who has similar reading taste.
Austenland by Shannon Hale is a modern-day romantic adventure about a New Yorker who has the opportunity for a 2-week full immersion vacation as an Austen heroine. Technically, it is probably "chick lit," but a reader will definitely enjoy it more with some background knowledge of Jane Austen's novels. I found it funny and a fast read.
The spin-off book that best held my attention was The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke. This is one of those "what if" books. What if Mr. Darcy the character, was based on a real man? Well, this book takes it one step further, throwing in a time-travel element. As you may remember from when I read Diana Galbadon's Outlander, I am not a time-travel fan, but it worked for me in this novel. The book flows easily from past to present, where a young NY artist is trying to piece together the mystery of a love letter she has found in an antique desk that supposedly was once owned by Jane. The strange thing that sets off her research and detective work is that the letter is written by a "Fitzwilliam Darcy."
I have not yet read The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James, but it does look interesting to me. The publisher's synopsis states:
What if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart.
Publisher's Weekly refers to the novel as "a pleasant addition to the ever-expanding Austen-revisited genre," and Bette-Lee Fox from Library Journal highly recommends it. I have put it on my TBR list, but I'm not rushing out to get it right now.
So these are my ramblings about Jane, her novels, and society's current uber-love for both! I'd love to know which Austen novels and/or movie versions are your personal favorites, and if you've read any of these "sequels" and "spin-offs"!
By the way, for those interested, you can purchase your Jane Austen ACTION FIGURE at the Library of Congress Shop.


Ronda's Rants said...

I think we should do a Jane Austen book for Bloggy Book Club? Any suggestions?

Becky said...

I loved this post! I haven't read many sequels/related books yet except for the Pamela Aidan ones about Mr. Darcy. I think I got the name right. There are three books that cover the time period of the P&P novel. Anyway, the first and third were fabulous. The second a bit boring since there was no Elizabeth.

I would love to read/review more of this genre though. I'm a bit amazed at how obsessed readers/writers/publishers are with Austen. I can understand it in a way, they're just pure fun. There's something so delicious about them. They have characters that you love, and characters that you love-to-hate.

I've also read Austenland. I liked it a good deal. (I didn't love, love, love it...but it was good.)

Sourcebooks is a publisher that seems to have a great many of these types of books.

Just out of curiosity have you seen Bride and Prejudice?

Lula! said...

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by Lulaville. I am loving your Austen post...she's one of my faves. I'm leaving for a trip in a few days and picked up Austenland to read--now I'm even more excited to delve into it!

shootingstarr7 said...

I've got Austen-related books on the brain this year, since I'm using it as a category for the 888 Challenge. I enjoyed Austenland, and I'm in the process of reading The Jane Austen Book Club right now (after having already seen the movie earlier this year). I plan on reading a few of the Austen sequels later this year, as well as Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter.

Ruth said...

I haven't read any of the spin-offs, but most of them are high on my TBR pile. I love all things Austen so I'm delighted by the Austen boom we've been experiencing over the last few years!

My favorite adaptation is definitely the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, but I thought the new Northanger Abbey was nicely done as well. It's a hard novel to adapt, I think, without making Catharine seem overly silly, but I thought the new version was very balanced.

Table Talk said...

I think we recognise in Austen's work much of what is still true about small communities today and wherever. Try reading Reginald Hill's crime novel 'Pictures of Perfection' which begins "It is a truth almost universally accepted..." and goes on to show that small English villages are very little different in respect of their social nuances today than they were two hundred years ago.

Kerrie said...

You might also like to read Reginald Hill's A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES in which he completes Jane Austen's Sanditon

Julie said...

It does seem like there's been a recent surge of interest in Jane Austen. I'm not a big fan, myself, but I wanted to say hi anyway. I love the explanation of your blog title. I've always known I was a died-in-the-wool INTJ but I never knew I was The Outside Contractor. ;-)

justareadingfool said...

Elizabeth, nicely done post. Like Julie, I'm not a big Jane Austen fan. However, I like how you had this set up and I'm passing along the recommendations to my wife. She's on a reading binge lately. I've read about three books in the last month. She's devoured eight or nine in the same time. Anyway, wanted to say thanks for the post.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

As an Austen fan I will put these books on my "to read"list.

lily said...

My neighbor came over to my house and yelled at me over my dog!

I have a dog that I can't keep in my yard. I have tried everything and she always finds a way out. Anyway, this lady comes to my home, knocks on my door and when i open the door she points her finger at me and yells obscenities at me. Apparently my dog was in HER neighbors garbage and then pooped on HER NEIGHBORS LAWN! Why didn't she come and talk to me like a civil human being? Why was she a vicious monster attacking me at my door? I calmly went over to HER NEIGHBORS house where the garbage was and picked up every piece, and the dog poop. I agree that I have that responsibility to clean up after my dog. The one thing I don't agree upon is someone coming to my house and screaming in my face about something I didn't know about. Is anyone out there been blessed with a psyco-neighbor?
I don't think anyone remembers the golden rule...Do unto others as you would want done unto you!
I sent them a lovely card from this site I