March: Reading Jane Austen

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March: Reading Jane Austen

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Mar 2, 2011, 2:15pm

March started :)

So what is everyone reading this month? :)

Mar 2, 2011, 4:08pm

I'm (re-)reading Pride and Prejudice, along with a book of essays, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, about why we read Jane Austen. Great stuff so far.

Mar 2, 2011, 4:15pm

I'll try and read Persuasion as it's the only major work of Jane Austen that I haven't read.

Mar 2, 2011, 4:23pm

And I forgot to say what I had lined up for the month...

I have the Norton Critical Edition of Sense and Sensibility - had been planning on reading through all the Norton editions of Austen for a while so that's a good chance to get started.

The Penguin Classics edition of Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon and the Oxford World's Classics edition of Catharine: and Other Writings are lined up - I had read most of these but not for a while so I am planning on reading them this month.

Jane Austen for Dummies for a non-fiction book (I was quite impressed from some of the other books in the series so I will give it a try) and I am searching a biography of Austen and/or a good non-fiction book about her books. Any recommendations?

Mar 2, 2011, 4:29pm

I enjoyed Christian Encounters: Jane Austen and reviewed it here. I've also heard that Claire Tomalin's biography of Austen is excellent (haven't read it myself yet).

I'm contemplating a reread of Pride & Prejudice, inspired largely by our recent viewing of the glorious 1995 miniseries. We saw it on Blu-ray (!) and it was like a new movie. Fantastic.

Modificato: Mar 2, 2011, 4:34pm

I haven't yet read Northanger Abby - maybe I'll download that one to my Kindle!

ETA: so I just did!

Mar 2, 2011, 4:36pm

I was looking at the Claire Tomalin's book and I guess I can give it a try. I was also thinking of trying to find a copy of the Jenkins biography (I am biased - I liked what she did with Elizabeth in her books about her so I am giving her a chance).

As for Peter Leithart's book... every time I see a title like that, I cringe. I can read religion-biased works but I tend not to if I have the choice. How religion biased it is? I kinda like your review but I still have my doubts...

PS: And if I manage to read all that in March, it will be a miracle... I might be still revisiting this thread in mid-November ;)

Mar 2, 2011, 4:56pm

I'm a Christian, so no doubt I am biased, but I didn't think Leithart's treatment of Austen's religious life was heavyhanded in the least. And I went in sort of worried about that, so I was looking for it. But as you say, no doubt there is plenty else to keep you occupied! :)

Modificato: Mar 2, 2011, 7:13pm

I am technically a Christian (it's complicated... I do not believe in God and I am not baptized but if I ever decide to be, it will be in my home-country Eastern Orthodox Christianity -- it is more a history and traditions thing than a religious one - and I recognize myself as an Eastern Orthodox Christian so I am an atheist with a religion).

The problem is that I like your review a lot. :) So I might as well get that one as well :)

Edit: Missed a 'be'... need to proofread before posting :)

Mar 2, 2011, 6:58pm

What an interesting background! Thanks for sharing. (And sorry to have written a convincing review :P.) I would love to hear your thoughts when you've read it and see how our impressions vary.

Mar 2, 2011, 7:28pm

I'm hoping to get to Persuasion, I haven't read it for ages. I am yet to read Mansfield Park, but I don't think I'm in the mood for Fanny Price.

I've been listening to Northanger Abbey (read by Anna Massey) for what seems to be months! (Because it probably is months, I'm not a great listener. :) It's a charming tale, and was the first Austen I ever read, many years ago.

Mar 2, 2011, 7:36pm

Yeah - I just got it for my kindle so planning to read it... not sure if I will end it this month but once I do, I will post my thoughts. :)

Mar 2, 2011, 8:34pm

I am searching a biography of Austen and/or a good non-fiction book about her books. Any recommendations?

AnnieMod: I really enjoyed the Jane Austen Penguin Lives biography by Carol Shields. It's not too long, either. And if you just want to glory in Austen's writing, try A Fine Brush on Ivory by Richard Jenkyns.

Mar 3, 2011, 1:17am

>13 Nickelini: Thanks :)

Started reading my first book and... I had forgotten how much I like Sense and Sensibility - haven't read it since high school... :)

Mar 3, 2011, 2:50am

A few years back after watching a movie or BBC drama of Jane Austen I read Jane Austen: a life by Claire Tomalin. I flew through it. At the same time I read and still have The Friendly Jane Austen: A Well-Mannered Introduction to a Lady of Sense and Sensibility by Natalie Tyler which is really fun and quirky over view of all the books with quizes etc. At some point I would love to find Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon.

Modificato: Mar 3, 2011, 10:43am

I've also heard that Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin is excellent, although I haven't gotten to it yet. I read Carol Shields' biography of Jane Austen and thought it was good but lacking a little something (not sure what but I felt like I wanted more at the end). I have the Friendly Jane Austen at home, and that's fun. For other nonfiction titles, I'd recommend Jane Austen's World: The Life and Times of England's Most Popular Author by Maggie Lane for a good overview of the times and customs, which help make the novels come to life. And, of course, there's always reading Jane's words herself in Jane Austen's Letters, which again I have at home but haven't gotten to yet.

Also, AnnieMod, since I know you enjoy comics too, you might want to check out Graphic Classics: Gothic Classics, vol. 14 -- it has a graphic version of Northanger Abbey as well as one of The Mysteries of Udolpho (the book mentioned several times in Northanger Abbey) and a short poem by Jane Austen. And there's also some interesting non-Austen-related adaptations in there as well!

I recently re-read Lady Susan, this time as an audio book, which was a rewarding experience as it was wisely done with multiple readers, giving even more voice to each letter. I also downloaded audio versions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility so one of those will be up shortly.

I also recently read Kipling's short story The Janeites, which is a fun read for Austen fans, although it takes a couple of readings for it to be really clear -- trying checking out some critical takes on it, too (for instance,

Mar 3, 2011, 11:44am

>16 sweetiegherkin:

:) I already got all comics that are Austen based (that I knew of... I am still looking)
Pocket Classics 59 from 1984 - which is essentially an illustrated retelling of Pride and Prejudice
Plus Marvel's two finished series - "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" (they are doing Emma now and I am getting the issues as they are issued).
I am not sure about the Gothic Classics - I am not a big fan of parodies in most cases so I skipped it for now - I have no plans to read the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as part of the month reading or at all - classics should be left alone if you ask me. May still pick the Gothic Classics up though.

And I picked some more non-fiction while I was at that so will start posting about that.

In the meantime - 2 volumes read from Sense and Sensibility... and I enjoy it even more than I did back in school.

Mar 3, 2011, 5:22pm

Hmm, I think I explained badly. Gothic Classics isn't really adaptations in that it changes the story, it's more like Marvel's Pride & Prejudice (and I assume Marvel's S&S but I didn't get to that one yet) in that it condenses the text and provides illustrations in the style of a comicbook.

Modificato: Mar 3, 2011, 11:50pm

I believe this is not exactly true and that exact adaptation is a parody. But might be wrong. I have some of the other volumes in the series so I am familiar with it and they have some parodies in them :)

PS: Grabbed it anyway so will see how it goes

Modificato: Mar 3, 2011, 11:44pm

>9 AnnieMod:: You just described my own relationship with and particular religion so well! ;)

Mar 4, 2011, 1:11am

> 19 Well, Northanger Abbey is already a parody of The Mysteries of Udolpho and other gothic novels, so a parody of a parody would be quite something!

Mar 4, 2011, 6:35pm

I just finished rereading Pride and Prejudice and am amazed all over again at how sharp and relevant it all is! Austen is unfailingly modern and historic all at the same time. I don't know how she does it.

I'm also reading a book of quotes by G. K. Chesterton and I loved what he had to say about Austen:

"Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected woman from truth, were burst by the Brontes or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew much more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her."

Mar 4, 2011, 8:19pm

>22 atimco:: wisewoman, I'm re-reading it too, for me it's been probably 20 years. I read all of her remaining novels in the past 5 years so I decided I really should re-read P&P. And I'm so glad I did! I agree with you about it being "sharp and relevant." Austen is really amazing.

Mar 4, 2011, 8:24pm

I've always liked Sense and Sensibility more for some reason. Although I have all of them lined up (together with all the ones listed above) so will see where I end up. :) I have ~60 pages left from S&S and I love it :)

Mar 5, 2011, 3:25am

I haven't read S&S since I was a teenager, and it was my least favourite Austen. Maybe I should read it again; I might get more out of it at my advanced age. :)

Modificato: Mar 5, 2011, 5:25am

I re-read all the Austen novels periodically, except Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility which I re-read less often, however over the last year or so I've listened to them as audiobooks. Apart from Pride and Prejudice they are all narrated by Juliet Stevenson, who is marvellous.

I enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than I have ever done before as the reading brought out the humour much more than reading from the page did. I think my real prejudice against NA is that it was the first Austen that I read, at the age of 12, at school, under the supervision of a dreadful English teacher.

Usually my favourite is Persuasion with P&P close behind but my audiobook of P&P is read by Emilia Fox, who, although very good, is not as good as Juliet Stevenson so P&P has moved down the scale of favourites.

I have been reading the six major novels frequently for over 30 years now and have been surprised that my opinions have changed by the audiobooks.

Having a Kindle is a joy in that it means I'll never be caught out without an Austen novel to hand!

ETA I'm reading Emma at the moment.

Mar 5, 2011, 6:16am

>26 CDVicarage:: Kerry, I like the idea of re-reading all the novels periodically. For some time I held the view that having read P&P there was no need to do so again. But I see now how with every re-read you can get something new out of it, and I'm sure that's the case with all her books. It's also interesting that the audiobooks made it such a different experience for you. Similarly, on this re-read of P&P I can't help imagining the actors, costumes, and sets from film adaptations. For some books this would be limiting but in this case it's not.

Mar 5, 2011, 5:00pm

> 26 I can't believe at age 12, school introduced you to Austen with Northanger Abbey ... it definitely needs context to be understood. The first time I read, I think when I was around 17, I didn't like it at all. I read it again in college in a class about Romantic Literature and we had the context of knowing about the gothic novels she was spoofing in that book. Still, I think I didn't appreciate it as much until I saw the PBS/Masterpiece movie a few years back ... I finally saw the humor in it then.

Mar 5, 2011, 5:23pm

I don't know. P&P and Emma are better novels in the conventional sense - I cannot deny that. But S&S is striking a strange nerve with me - somehow I could relate to Elinor (not in the romantic angle but in having a younger sister that is bright but at the same time naive and prone to strange choices)... which did not happen with the rest of the Austen novels. I still enjoy them but I was afraid of rereading S&S for more than 10 years - afraid that the magic that made me love it will disappear when my not-teenage self reads it again. As it turned out (I just finished it), I had nothing to worry about :)

I am usually on a cycle of rereading a random novel from Dickens, Austen, Asimov and Agatha Christie every so often (strange group of authors, I know). It's like meeting an old friend again and knowing what happens next allows me to see these small nuances that I had dismissed the previous time as unimportant... and that are actually quite important

Mar 5, 2011, 5:31pm

#28 Yes, I don't think it was a good one to start with! I'm sure the main reason was that it's the shortest. The book before that had been Treasure Island and they both came in special school editions, apart from the spine identical in size shape and colour.

Mar 5, 2011, 8:13pm

Mum suggested (when I was a teenager) that I start with Northanger Abbey, possibly because it was Austen's silliest. I'm pretty sure I read it then, but I'm not sure I really enjoyed it until more recently. I did see a recentish BBC adaptation that was quite delightful, and I'm enjoying my (occasional) listen to the audiobook of it at the moment.

Mum's a big fan of 19th century female authors - she's currently reading some Mrs Gaskell, I think it was, or maybe a Bronte - and she reads a Jane Austen each year.

Mar 7, 2011, 4:12am

That's official - I still like Sense and Sensibility (a lot). :) Review of the Norton edition here and a short one of the Marvel adaptation into a Graphic novel here

Add to that A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen (review here) which was interesting and I seem to be doing just fine with the reading this month :)

And after I read both versions of S&S, I actually decided to read something I had not read yet - the shorter works. So started with Lady Susan - which turned out to actually be quite amusing - so different from any of the novels but so Austen-like in some ways.

Mar 7, 2011, 9:34am

S&S is one of my favorites too, mostly because it was my introduction to Austen four or five years ago and I've never quite gotten over that astonishing first read.

Isn't Lady Susan fun? I should reread that.

Mar 7, 2011, 7:33pm

Read The Watsons last night. I wish she had finished it. It is so different from her finished novels (although it Emma reminded me of Fanny, the other Emma and even Elizabeth in some moments - it almost looked like she decided to give up the Watsons and to use the characteristics elsewhere). It's an easy read and I will probably be rereading it now and then - it shows a lot more playful Austen than any of the novels... and at the same time it tackles a theme that is a lot more serious than any of the novels'.

>33 atimco:
Yep. I like quite like the epistolary novels. So the way it is done works. Add to that the fact that Lady Susan is the most unlikeable person I had read about in a long time and it becomes are hilarious read. Too bad that she got her wish at the end (or variation of it anyway) - if there was a work where I really wish Austen had not pushed the marriage ending, that's the one.

Mar 8, 2011, 11:32pm

I did a Jane Austen "immersion" a few years back . . . read just about everything. Not ready to reread, but I'll watch my Austen DVDs and videos (P&P, S&S) this month in honor of this group :) I found the information at the Jane Austen's World Blog to be quite interesting/helpful when I was reading all those novels. Enjoy!

Mar 9, 2011, 7:13am

I have about 20 pages remaining in Pride and Prejudice. It's been such a delightful reread!

Modificato: Mar 9, 2011, 1:44pm

gocubsgo, ah yes, what a name! The triumph of magical thinking over experience.

Mar 9, 2011, 6:33pm

>37 geneg: LOL . . . or more evidence for "Misery loves miserable company." :)

Mar 13, 2011, 1:49am

How is everyone doing? :)

I finished two more books:
Jane Austen: a Life by Carol Shields (Review here) which despite being a pretty nice biography made me wonder if some authors edit their text. You cannot start a book with one idea, do something else in the middle and finish so away from where you started that you make your readers go check if they remember Chapter 1 properly. Ignoring that (and I always fail to understand why authors seem to find it necessary to tell us what they are trying to do -- go ahead and do it and leave the reader to judge what you are doing), it is a good book actually - short and sweet and well-researched.

Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon (Review here) is one of those books that everyone that enjoys Austen should read. I liked all three pieces - Lady Susan is hilarious, The Watsons is a great beginning that I wish had been finished (but then I am not sure that Emma and Mansfield Park would have looked exactly as they look today) and Sanditon is just the sketch for a novel but even as such it is delightful.

I think I am mostly done with Austen for the month - I will probably read more later this year but for now I feel like I need to change subjects a bit :) Although I might still go through the For Dummies book and even through the short fiction collection.

Mar 13, 2011, 4:05am

#39- Doh! I think I was the one to recommend the Shields book to you. You obviously gave it a much more careful reading than I did. But then again, I think that that whole series is meant to be a brief glimpse into an author's life from another author (and hence, writerly perspective). Obviously from the length, not meant to be exhaustive coverage, which I found fitting considering how much we actually know about JA. Still, no excuse for the faults that you outline here! Thanks for your comments. I was a real JA novice when I read it and it made me want to read more . . . but perhaps that's the book's limit, do you think?

Mar 13, 2011, 4:16am

>40 Nickelini:

Oh, I enjoyed the book -- it is a good book and the author's style is working for me. It is just these small thingies that really got to me (I actually went and reread the first chapter after I finished it -- just to make sure that I am not mixing two books).

It is a good book - it just has its... faults. As most books do. :) And in most cases I doubt that people will take notice in the rambling of the author - that is a book about Jane Austen and as such, it is a good one. It is just the whole book as a package that is kinda.. strangely failing :) And it is really a few sentences that frame the work wrongly a bit.

Mar 13, 2011, 6:11pm

I borrowed the audiobook of Persuasion (read by Juliet Stevenson) from the library and will be starting it tomorrow, even though I just read Persuasion last year. This will be my first Austen on audiobook, and I'm looking forward to it!

Mar 13, 2011, 7:54pm

I've read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma with great pleasure, the first two even multiple times. I've started Mansfield Park, but it's just not grabbing me like the other three. In fact, I've put it aside for now. Perhaps I'm just not in the right mood? I don't know. I'll try again later, for I do want to read it.

Mar 14, 2011, 5:43pm

I just started Persuasion, which is possibly my favourite Austen. (I only say "possibly", because I find it so hard to just pick one!)

But I am wondering, why do I so easily forgive Captain Wentworth when he really is rather mean to Anne? I don't remember the details of his apology, but it'd better be a doozy.

Mar 14, 2011, 6:32pm

It's a doozy, no worries there, wookie :). I just started the audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson on my way home from work tonight and it's WONDERFUL. I am loving her narration — she gets all the nuances just right.

Mar 14, 2011, 7:09pm

Oh, I love Juliet Stevenson - she was such a delightfully shallow and vapid Mrs Elton in the adaptation of Emma with Gwenyth Paltrow!

I don't think my library has her reading the books, because when I borrowed the audio of Northanger Abbey it has Anna Massey reading. She's quite excellent, I'm just not a great listener! Too easily distracted by shiny things. I need a book and blinkers to keep the rest of the world at bay most days. (Don't actually have the blinkers, though.)

Mar 14, 2011, 7:12pm

What's blinkers?

Mar 14, 2011, 7:45pm

What horses wear (wore?) to cut out peripheral vision to stop them from getting spooked. says "Horses wear blinkers because if something suddenly appears in there field of vision, their first response is to flee. When you are riding or using a horse for transportation in a public or otherwise noisy and distraction place, these are very useful, to keep your horse calm."

Hm. "There" when it should have been "their". Tsk tsk.

Mar 14, 2011, 7:48pm

Ah - I did not know the name of those in English (or had forgotten it) :)

Mar 14, 2011, 9:47pm

The Queen calls them "blinkers" but they are "blinders" in American English. At least that's what I've always called them!

Mar 19, 2011, 6:41am

I finished Persuasion a few days ago, and you're right, it is a brilliant apology. Although I think I'd already forgiven him a while before that. :)

And I listened to a bit more of Northanger Abbey, which is wonderfully fun still, too.

Mar 20, 2011, 2:20pm

I have for my next-reads Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, which is a fan fiction re-telling of Lady Susan. I'm not usually a big fan of Austen sequels/retellings/rip-offs, but I've occasionally found a good one and this one came highly recommended.

Mar 24, 2011, 10:27pm

I couldn't resist reading something related to Austen (even after I said I wouldn't :), so I started A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen edited by Susannah Carson. Not sure I will read all of the essays, but I'm eager to get to Virginia Woolf's piece.

Recently I watched the lovely Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet/Hugh Grant version of Sense & Sensibility . . . marvelous every time!

Mar 25, 2011, 7:45am

>53 LucindaLibri:: I have that collection of essays also. I read a few whilst reading P&P a few weeks ago, and really need to come back to it. And I, too, love that film of S&S.

Mar 30, 2011, 3:14pm

A bit late but it just so happens that I have read Northanger Abbey and Persuasion this month.

Mar 30, 2011, 9:38pm

A bit late also but I just started an audio version of Pride and Prejudice today, read by Nadia May, which I am enjoying.

Gen 26, 2018, 10:23am

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Digital audiobook narrated by Kate Reading

One of the best opening lines of literature: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

I thought it was okay when I read it in high school. I re-read it shortly after the BBC mini-series came out and really appreciated it. I’ve seen several film adaptations. And now I’ve listened to the audio version.

It's no wonder this is a classic. Austen is simply the master of dialogue. The way in which the characters interact brings them to life. From Mrs Bennet’s hysterics, to Lydia’s self-centered teen-aged giddiness, to Mr Collins’ simpering diatribes, to Jane’s cautious and measured observations, to Elizabeth’s outrage and clever responses to Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the dialogue simply sparkles.

Kate Reading does a marvelous job narrating the audio book. Her pacing is good, moving the action forward at a satisfactory clip. She gives each of the girls a sufficiently distinct voice that I was never lost in dialogue between sisters. Of course, she has the advantage of Austen’s skill with writing each of these characters with a unique speech pattern.

Gen 27, 2018, 3:06pm

>57 BookConcierge: Sounds lovely! Several years back I did a re-read of all six of Austen's novel as audiobooks and it was delightful. :)