The Marvel that is Jane Austen

What is it that fascinates us so much about Jane Austen? I know there are Lauren fans out there who aren’t big on Jane or haven’t read any of her books, but I would say that the majority of us are pretty enthusiastic about her.

Lauren has a short story in an Austen-inspired anthology called Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Reviews of her books frequently contain snippets like “Pride and Prejudice lives on” or “Jane Austen meets James Bond.” Lauren has spoken at meetings of the Jane Austen Society of North America (which has state chapters, y’all – this is serious) and is a frequent guest on Laurel Ann Nattress’s blog Austenprose, which is “a celebration of Jane Austen novels, movies, sequels, and the pop culture she has inspired.” So I am not exaggerating when I say that conversations about Jane and Pink frequently go hand-in-hand.

I love that Lauren included Jane in Pink V. I think it works well because Jane’s role is so small – just a few brief appearances, really, and several sweet references to how Arabella and Turnip may influence her future novels. This way, Jane fans get to be pleased to see her without feeling like any of Lauren’s descriptions are challenging a preconceived notion we have of Jane. I don’t know about you, but I never experienced a moment of “Wait a minute – Jane would NEVER have…” in Pink V. Congrats, Lauren! An impressive feat, considering many of Jane’s fans consider her our imaginary friend.

I think that if “Teen Paranormal Romance” can have its own section in Barnes and Noble, “Austen Inspired Novels” should get some space too! Have you ever noticed that you can’t walk down a row in a bookstore’s fiction section without coming across at least one of these Austen adaptations? These adaptations tend to fall into six basic categories:

  1. Continuations of the Austen novels (Death Comes to Pemberly, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister)
  2. Austen novels rewritten from other perspectives (Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Darcy’s Story)
  3. Stories where Jane is a character (like Pink V or Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries)
  4. Stories about Jane’s influence (Austenland, The Jane Austen Book Club)
  5. Modernizations of the Austen novels (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Persuading Annie)
  6. Just plain crazy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters)

Am I missing one here?

As with all genres, some of these books are wonderful, and some are unbelievably dreadful. But here is what I want to know. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? What is your favorite Austen-related novel? I’ll play fair and tell you mine first. Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of Jane’s books, and Janet Aylmer’s Darcy’s Story is my favorite Austen-inspired novel. Your turn!

14 thoughts on “The Marvel that is Jane Austen

  1. I’m just going to go on a limb here and make a comment about the name Jane! I am not a huge Jane Austen fan I tried and could never get into the books, I should really give them another try one day.,.. but to digress, whenever I think about a Jane in the Pink Carnation series, I have to remember in this book it is not our Jane (AKA the Pink Carnation!)

    • I actually had not thought to get Jane Austen and Jane Wooliston mixed up, but what an easy thing to do!
      Don’t feel bad about not liking Jane Austen – we’ve all got our preferences 🙂 Out of her six books, there are two that I’m not crazy about!

  2. I like Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries, I find them fun and the only time in Mistletoe that I had a “wait a minute that doesn’t sound right” moment was NOT with any of the scenes with Jane, it was when Turnip shows up at Sally’s school and the girls were playing “tiddlywinks” which began as a parlor game in Victorian England. Joseph Assheton Fincher filed the original patent application for the game in 1888 and applied for the trademark Tiddledy-Winks in 1889.
    It was the same reaction I had when reading Crimson Rose and Vaughn refers to ‘Stamp collecting” (the first stamp as we know it, was the penny black issued in 1840 which carried the image of the young Queen Victoria).
    They stuck out because mostly Lauren’s books are so well researched that it feels like you have been transported back in time and only 3 of them have such a glaring anachronism (to me anyway), the 3rd instance being when she refer to “Cosmopolitan Ladies Book” which in Pink I was in italics so I assumed it was an author joke combining Cosmo and Godey’s Ladies book which did not begin publishing until 1840 and was an American periodical.
    I tend to read the Pink books over and over anyway because I just love them. I am sad to think the stories surrounding the Pink Carnation are coming to an end. Feels like I am losing old friends.

    • Interesting facts, Debra. I didn’t know about the time periods for those items. That’s why I love the chance to share thoughts, and why I love historical fiction itself – I learn so much! Thanks for sharing.

      • you’re welcome, I am glad to share historical tidbits. I like historical fiction if it is well written and well researched but sometimes you get one that the cover sounds interesting but when you read it, you keep having the thought that, no, this is all wrong and it is very clear the research was not very well done. I mean instead of a believable heroine in the time period, the characters are all acting and speaking using too modern words or actions or referring to things that just weren’t in existence yet (there are a few Facebook games like this too). It is a bit frustrating for me because if I start a book, I am compelled to finish it (no matter how awful or wonderful it may be), there are only about 4 books I did not finish once started.

    • I am the same Debra – have to finish a book once I start it. The worst one for me was One Hundred Years of Solitude, and then I actually threw the book away. I have heard authors speak about getting things right in the time period, especially names, and I respect that and trust that they spend time on research. However, my knowledge is limited in many respects. If something doesn’t seem right to me, I usually go to the internet to check, but often I don’t know enough to do that.

  3. Another Pride & Prejudice sequel series that I thought was okay was Rebecca Ann Collins’ The Pemberly Chronicles. It’s been several years since I’ve read it so I don’t know if I would still like it as much, but I remember reading through all the books in the series available at the library in our town at the time.

  4. Val McDermid’s wonderful ‘Northanger Abbey’ – a 21st century take on the Austen original with extremely clever ways of modernizing 19th century behavior.

  5. Pride and Prejudice as well as Sense and Sensibility are favorites of mine. But I will have to admit I haven’t read all of Austen’s books. I read Mansfield Park and enjoyed it too, finding it a bit different from the other two.

    As for Austen continuations, I enjoyed Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy and Elizabeth which I found after rereading Pride and Prejudice. These are written more in the style of regency romance today – definitely more explicit than Jane would have done – but I still enjoyed them.

    Thus far, I will have to say Syrie James is my favorite Austen like author with The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, and Jane Austen’s First Love. It was almost like reading Austen, and her research is exceptional.

  6. Totally agreeing with the ladies regarding Persuasion; like Sarah H above, it and P&P are my favourites, although I do enjoy S&S as well. Another adaptation I really enjoyed was Pamela Aiden’s ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman’ trilogy, a really in depth look at Darcy. I also quite enjoyed ‘Longbourn’ by Jo Baker, it had an interesting look at the below stairs.

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