Books

Book 502: Jane Austen, the Secret Radical – Helena Kelly

Perhaps I’m too smart for my own good, but overall this book was a bit disappointing. With a title like Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, you’d expect there to be revelations of sorts and yet there weren’t. I mean that’s why I requested a copy from the publisher.* I was hoping as the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death rapidly approaches there’d be something completely new and innovative to talk about, but there wasn’t.

Sure Kelly highlighted a few things that I missed when reading Austen, but really she just expounded upon the things that those of us who don’t read Austen ONLY as a romance novelist, but as a social commentator hopefully picked up on. She provided more detail of course, especially when it came to names and places, but overall there just weren’t a lot of revelations.

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Books

Book 381: Northanger Abbey (Marvel Illustrated) – Nancy Butler & Janet Lee

Butler, Nancy, Jane Austen and Janet Lee - Northanger AbbeyI’m so glad I’m on Austen overload this year. I’m not really sure what I do on the years I don’t read this much Austen. Does that actually happen? I should start tracking my Austen reads in addition to everything else I track.

This is the second of the Marvel Illustrated Jane Austen series and I have to say I’m impressed so far. Butler knows how to reduce down the stories to their key elements without losing any of the wit and humor Austen infuses into her work. I preferred the illustration style of Hugo Petrus from Pride & Prejudice versus Janet Lee of Northanger Abbey. Which is interesting because I know it took me a while to adjust to that style, maybe when I read Emma, also illustrated by Lee, I won’t have as many issues. All of this being said, I really enjoyed this adaptation.

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Book Group, Books

Book 362: Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

Mansfield Park - Jane AustenLucky for you I’ve re-read this for our Jane Austen Book Club, so you get to hear about it again, almost exactly three years after I last read it.

Following Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) this was Austen’s third published novel in 1814 and it is a clear shift away from the whimsy and light previous novels. I talk about this in my last response, but I wonder if this has to do with feedback from the first two novels or if it’s her own personal experience and maturation as an adult. We already know that when Austen published Emma, her fourth work, in 1815 that she was comfortable with sassing her critics. She openly says at the start of Emma that she’s writing a character NO ONE can dislike, because so many people disliked Fanny, or Fanny’s decisions.

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Book Group, Books, The Classics Club

Book 352: Persuasion – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - PersuasionI don’t know how I let myself go so long without re-reading Persuasion, I forgot how much I loved it. I think I last read it in 2008/2009 so almost six years ago! It makes me even happier we’re doing Jane Austen Book Club this year and we chose this as our third installment.

It is difficult to say whether I preferred the unrequited/long-lost love of this story or Austen’s caustic wit more. The story of course revolves around Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, who were in love and were almost engaged, but do to external factors (rude ass relatives and friends) it wasn’t to be. They meet again eight years later and the story picks up from there, so of course, SWOON. And in competition here were so many great one-liners and zingers (none of which I wrote down) about the aristocracy and the landed gentry that I couldn’t help but be torn between laughing and holding my breath! If I were forced to chose…nope, can’t do it.

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Book Group, Books, The Classics Club

Book 331: Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Northanger AbbeyContinuing my “Jane-uary” theme, I’ve just finished Northanger Abbey in time for our Jane Austen Book Club (JABC) discussion, which was unfortunately postponed due to a blizzard here in Boston. In addition, this acts as my revitalization of my Classics Club attempt. I apparently only read two books last year. How embarrassing! I’ll read at least six this year with the JABC so that’s a bonus.

Let’s start with I’m ashamed to admit I forgot how absolutely lovable and amazing Henry Tilney is! This is one of the two Austen books I’ve only read once and that is will most definitely change in the future. On the scale of Austen heroes he’s always been lost in the non-Mr. Darcy fray for me. I think he is still behind Darcy, but his bookishness and (what I see as his) disdain for social norms made me laugh on numerous occasions!

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Book 327: What Matters in Jane Austen? – John Mullan

Mullen, John - What Matters in Jane AustenNeither a bad end to 2014, nor a bad start to 2015, this was well worth the read. It wasn’t all I thought it would be, but considering it was a galley I got ages ago (2012 I think) and never read (Sorry!) I’m glad I finally read it. I think I’m going to spend a lot of time with Austen this year. A few friends and I are doing a Jane Austen book club and I have quite a bit of non-fiction I’m looking forward to reading about Austen and her life. I hope everyone sticks with me throughout! I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and received nothing in return for my honest response.

What worked best for this book was the selecting of 20 themes and then talking about them across Austen’s novels. I’ve read all of her novels at least once and a few of them much more. You can look at the chapter titles to see the themes, but the ones that stood out most to me where when Mullan spoke about Austen’s mastery of novels and groundbreaking skills as a writer.

“She did things with fiction that had never been done before. She did things with characterization, with dialogue, with English sentences, that had never been done before.”

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