We heard from AustenBlog reader Molly, who wants some recommendations on what to read when you’ve read all of Jane Austen’s work.
I’ve recently rediscovered my love of Jane Austen’s fiction and have now devoured all of the fiction, most of which I hadn’t read since I was a teenager. This has whetted my appetite for more. I stumbled across your blog a while ago, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I have a query for you, which I think might make a lovely topic for a blog post. Recommended other reading for Austen-lovers. I’m specifically NOT looking for either nonfiction about Austen or her environs (which is easy enough to find) or fiction that’s a sequel (or prequel or otherwise directly coming out of) one of Austen’s books. Rather, I’m looking for other books written in the spirit or tone of Austen’s books (even if not 100% meeting her talent). I guess a “if you like Austen, you’ll love X.” I’m particularly curious about contemporary writers of period literature, but am also open to contemporary fiction or older fiction too. So, if you have any go-to suggestions, that would be grand.
Oh, do we have suggestions!!!
First, if you like historical fiction of the period, we suggest Georgette Heyer’s books, both her Regencies and her other books. Particular favorites at AustenBlog World Headquarters are the Alistair books (The Black Moth, These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub, (read Regency Buck here, though it’s not an Alastair, it is sort of the Ur-Regency anyway) and then An Infamous Army, which wraps them all up. For the Regencies, we especially love Friday’s Child and Cotillion, but everyone has their favorites, and we’re sure they will pop up in comments!
It might also be interesting for you to read the books that Jane Austen read herself. First on the list is one of her favorite authors, Fanny Burney. We recently read Evelina and Cecilia, and in Cecilia especially one can find many suggestions of Jane’s work; it is obvious that the books influenced her. (The title of Pride and Prejudice comes from the final chapter of Cecilia.) We started Camilla and were distracted by other things; we plan to finish it, though we looked over the first volume and there’s nothing in it but an old man playing at see-saw and learning Latin, upon our soul there is not. 😉 If you’re very brave, you can tackle another of Jane’s favorites, Samuel Richardson, particularly Pamela and Sir
Richard Charles (oops) Grandison (if you can find it). Maria Edgeworth is another popular author of the period, and one whom Jane read and admired.
Remember also that the Austens “were novel readers and not ashamed of it,” and that included novels of the horrid variety. Mrs. Radcliffe’s charming works are definitely worth a read, particularly The Mysteries of Udolpho; we think you will get deeper enjoyment of Northanger Abbey after reading it. Valancourt Books is currently reprinting the “Northanger Canon,” the horrid novels that Isabella Thorpe names in NA.
“Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”
“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?”
“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”
“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”
See Cub Reporter Heather L.’s review of The Castle of Wolfenbach. Catherine Morland definitely read that one before she got to Northanger Abbey!
Speaking of Valancourt Books and horrid novels, Cub Reporter Heather L. spotted something of interest to some of our readers on Valancourt’s blog:
And on a similar and yet entirely different note, Natalie Schroeder, who has edited Regina Maria Roche’s Clermont and Ouida’s In Maremma for Valancourt Books, will be writing an introduction for a new edition of Roche’s The Children of the Abbey (1796). One of the most popular and bestselling novels of all time, Children of the Abbey was continuously in print in England and the United States from the late 18th century through the early 20th, and was beloved by many generations of readers. The Valancourt Books edition will follow the first edition text of 1796, thus making it the first edition in 200 years to follow faithfully the original text.
Attentive readers will remember Harriet Smith’s disappointment that Mr. Robert Martin had not read The Children of the Abbey or Mrs. Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest, though he had read Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, a very improving sort of book.
If you want to go a little later into the Victorian period, we find Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels similar in tone and feeling to Jane Austen’s, especially Cranford, Wives and Daughters, and North and South.
An offshoot of our interest in Jane Austen is our interest in the Age of Sail, both the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy of Jane Austen’s time period (in other words, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812-era), engendered by our fascination with one Captain Frederick Wentworth. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of novels are often compared to Jane Austen’s in their rich complexity, and we also thoroughly enjoy the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester, both the books and the films.
In more modern works, we can heartily recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. We haven’t read the latest book yet, and are saving it for the plane trip to Vancouver for the JASNA AGM, so no spoilers, please! 🙂 We once called these books “porn for English majors” on this blog, to general agreement.
Well, that’s enough from us. Anybody else have anything to add?