Good job, guys! According to a study by people who track library loans, Pride and Prejudice is the most loaned classic in the UK! (Wuthering Heights is #2.) Jane takes three more of the top 20 spots as well:
- #8 Emma
- #11 Sense and Sensibility
- #17 Northanger Abbey
The Telegraph‘s article says, “The study involves a comparison of lending data from Britain’s libraries for 50 classics by British and Irish authors from the literary canon from the early 1990s, a decade ago, and last year.”
Mission #1: People of Britain, read more Austen! I want to see Persuasion and Mansfield Park on this list next time too. We can’t leave Anne Elliot out in the cold and Fanny Price sitting on her bench, now can we?? And let’s get those other numbers up, too. (Special Sneak Preview: Austenacious will do our part by hosting another read-a-long soon!) People of Not Britain: don’t think I’m not watching you too!
Also according to The Telegraph, “Works by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot and EM Forster have seen their popularity plummet over the last two decades . . ..”
I’m not going to say a word for Thomas Hardy. (Anyone want to take that on in the comments?) But, EM Forster, you guys! I love EM Forster. A Room With a View, anyone? Howards End? So beautiful! So smart! The article says maybe Austen got more popular because of the adaptations, and because of her “rather too light, bright, sparkling tone.” (Though George Orwell also got more popular, and he’s, like, super-funny, right?)
Forster is comic, just as much as Austen, so maybe we need more adaptations? I love the 1985 version of A Room with a View—Helena Bonham Carter, before she was crazy! Naked guys! … Good lord, has it really been that long? IMDB says there’s also a 2007 version, which I completely missed. Have any of you seen it? Thoughts? We could do better, though, right?
For Howards End there’s just the 1992 version with Emma Thompson. I’m conflicted here—I really don’t think this book is adaptable. But if anyone wants to have a go, feel free!
Then there’s our girl George Eliot. I’ll admit I’ve only ever read Middlemarch, and I only read that because of the 1994 version. (See, TV adaptations pay off!) Middlemarch is pretty awesome—though it’s not as joyous as Austen and Forster, it does have depth, without being as, um, self-conscious as the Brontës. Do we want a new Middlemarch adaptation? But Rufus Sewell and Colin’s brother Jonathon are so cute… Juliet Aubrey is so Dorothea…. I don’t know. What do you all think?
Mission #2: People of Britain and Not Britain, read more Forster! Read more Eliot! Demand quality adaptations, or make your own crazy vlogs! Or both! Think, live, breathe fiction!
P.S. (Mission #3: Contemplate Colin Firth’s legs.)
Photo credit: dbking. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
I love Jane Austen.
You know this.
The thing is, I also love a lot of other books. Books of all genres! Books of all lengths! Books of all colors! Books for all!
We can’t all read Jane all the time—sometimes I think Mrs. Fitzpatrick tries, but eventually there are other things out there. And it’s summer, when we’re all supposed to pack up a few thick novels and cart them off to the beach or the mountains or the nearest fire escape with a glass of pink wine. And who am I to fail to support you all in the pursuit of excellent, Jane-esque summer reading? But must we stray from the path of Jane completely?
I say no.
Here, dear readers, are a few non-Austen books for an Austen frame of mind.
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
I read Middlemarch way back in the Beloved Sisters’ early days of cooking and watching period pieces on Friday nights, back when Austenacious was just a twinkle in our collective eye, and let me tell you: George Eliot knows people. She knows the ways in which they’re funny, and the ways in which they’re devious, and the ways in which they’re well intentioned (or not), and the ways in which they handle life (or don’t), and I love her for it. And where is there a better heroine than Mary Garth (and a cuter ne’er-do-well than Fred Vincy)? Nowhere. That’s where.
One disclaimer: About two-fifths of the way through, you may find yourself persisting through a dry section regarding who will become the Middlemarch town doctor, and you will slog through because you are a conscientious reader and you think it is important to the plot. It isn’t. If you can do it without massive reader’s guilt, I hereby give you permission to skip to the next section and enjoy every other single word about these people. Be free! Read like the wind!
The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel
It isn’t funny, mostly—for that, you’d have to go to Kimmel’s childhood memoir, A Girl Named Zippy—but for a flawed and headstrong heroine and (eventual) true love between mismatched equals, this is a good place to go.
84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
Once upon a time, Miss Osborne and I went to London. I demanded that we find and pay our respects at 84 Charing Cross Road, where we found only a plaque and it became clear that Miss Osborne had no idea what we were doing or why she was being hurried around the city by a crazy person fixated on a single address not occupied by the Prime Minister. We came back to the States, I forced my copy into her hands, she read it and fell in love, and we all lived happily ever after, forcing many of our friends to read the greatest, funniest, saddest nonfiction epistolary book about books of all time. The End.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons
Cold Comfort Farm is not about the Regency period, but it IS the hilarious story of a plucky young lady and her country relatives, AND—bonus!—it’s a satire of a now-dead genre of Gothic literature about girls wandering the moors. (Fun fact: I just typed “Wandering the Moors,” but that is not the same at ALL.) There is nothing about this of which Jane would not have approved, except perhaps for the oversexed cousin named Seth (or Reuben, because there’s always an oversexed cousin named Seth or Reuben).
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
I never quite understand why Cassandra Mortmain and her sister Rose don’t really rate in the canon of coming-of-age heroines. They live in a CASTLE! And they’re poor, but trying not to be, and they have adventures and misadventures on the path to love and self-actualization, and isn’t that what coming of age is all about? Why the author of 101 Dalmatians wrote a combo young-adult novel/treatise on Modernism isn’t entirely clear, but it’s wonderful and worth a read.
What am I missing, readers? What’s Janelike but not exactly Jane?
Pop quiz: Which Jane Austen character said this?
Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.
Actually, it was none of them. The quote, according to The Happiness Project, is from a French painter named Georges Rouault. But it sounds like Elinor Dashwood, doesn’t it? Or possibly Fanny Price, or Anne Elliot, or any one of Austen’s more serious heroines. (It also sounds a lot like Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch, but that’s another story.) It sounds like the backstory of any Austen novel.
I don’t think, by the way, that Georges meant this to relate to political revolt. I think he, and Jane, were talking about good old ordinary life, and how hard it can be to find your niche, your “inner resources,” as Mrs. Elton would say. Then and even more now you get a lot more attention if you are revolting (Lydia, I’m looking at you) than if you’re just trying to lead a good life, or even your own life. Perhaps sometimes you have to revolt to do that. But all Jane’s heroines learn Georges’ lesson, don’t they? They all have to spazz less and look beneath the surface of events rather than respond on a superficial level.
One of Jane’s more subtle messages, really. But a true message, I think, and one leading to happiness.