Jane Austen discussion

General Discussion > Who is like Austen today?

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message 1: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I posed this question a few weeks ago within one of the other topics here in our group. I am not sure I still have an opinion to share....

What writer of today reminds you of Austen? Or of the past few decades?

I was thinking of authors who write about their (or a character's) social world and the people in it and reveals to the reader something about the society.

I wasn't necessarily looking for exact Austen, just someone whose writing is weighty like hers, with both serious and humorous situations alike.

Any ideas?

message 2: by Christine (new)

Christine Barbara Pym books written during the 50's -70's read very much like Austen novels. They have the same wit and and social commentary. If you decide to give Pym a try, start with Excellent Women.

message 3: by Michaela (new)

Michaela Wood | 49 comments I think Susanna Clarke gets my vote.

message 4: by Kathryn (last edited Oct 24, 2008 09:48AM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments Love this topic! Thanks, Sarah. I will have to give it some thought to see if I can come up with some good offerings.

Off the top of my head, I would say EF Benson with the Mapp/Lucia books. So far, I've only read MISS MAPP but I loved it. Very funny and focused mostly on looking into the characters and motives and silly little things in small-town England. Reminds me of Jane Austen meets "Keeping up Appearances" (great Britcom show from years back!) Not quite as weighty as Jane Austen, but still fun character sketches and glances at human foibles in a humorous light. Miss Mapp

message 5: by Kathryn (last edited Oct 24, 2008 11:03AM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments Also, what about Edith Wharton? (Beyond the "past few decades" but I think it's an interesting place between Austen's era and modern society!) I loved The Age of Innocence There was a lot of humor, but also some pretty deep things and it wasn't really as "happy" as Austen's books are; but, still, good discussions of humanity and society!

message 6: by Katie (last edited Oct 24, 2008 02:42PM) (new)

Katie I dont really know anyone who could really compare to her. (Jane Austen)

message 7: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Hey Michaela,
Tell me about Susanna Clarke -- I am familiar with "Jonathan Strange" and I have heard of another one. What are they like and what strikes you about her? She is already on my reading list, but I don't know what her writing is like.

message 8: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I am glad you mentioned books with humour. I havent heard of these books but would like to take a look at them. Suggesting these makes me think of a few too ---

the E.M. Delafield novels might be worth an Austen comparison. They are much lighter I would say, but really look at the character's English world in the early 20th c.

And can I throw in a mention of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons without someone slapping me? It is humorous entirely and maybe just because it is so English that it comes to mind. It is a little microcosm of society.

This is a hard topic I have brought up -- for me anyway -- because Austen really could see the humor of people and situations, especially her stuffier characters -- but her novels were balanced with struggle, emotion, and, yes, passion --- where is her modern equivalent?!!!?

I am curious to try the suggestions of Edith Wharton, and earlier, Barabra Pym. I haven't read any Wharton in a very long time and I know I didn't spend enough time on her.

message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann | 69 comments Great post Sarah! I'm very interested in reading what gets recommended!:D

It's *very* difficult to think of anything! This isn't really like Austen, but you might look at Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. It's a memoir of Hart's summer working at Tiffany Dept. store during the 1940's (I think it was the 40's..?) anyway, it's funny and cute, and gives some interesting perspectives into that era. But, not nearly as indepth character-wise as anything Austen.

message 10: by Aod (new)

Aod | 7 comments I think that fans of Jane Austen would also like Elinor Lipman. She wrote "Then She Found Me" and "My Latest Grievance" among others.

message 11: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments I read a book that some of you might enjoy. It's kind of a "forgotten" classic from the early 1900s set in England. It's much more descriptive in setting and more focused on one person than Austen's works, but still very acute social observations and women trying to become independent.

Lolly Willowes : Or the Loving Huntsman

Impossible to say much without giving away the treasures to be discovered in these pages. As the jacket says, "an upper-class spinster rebels against her role as the universal aunt" and how does she do this? With the help of the Devil. But not the devil we are often told of--this is a loving huntsman, who catches women's souls to save them from dying by the confines of society. This is not a sort of compelling, page-turner read but every time I decided to sit down with it, I was completely absorbed and "bewitched." Beautifully and insightfully written. A shame it's so neglected now and I encourage anyone interested in forgotten "classics," feminist authors, or just a very well-written tale set in England, to seek out this delightful and thought-provoking read.

message 12: by Charmless (new)

Charmless (mysocalledreads) | 21 comments Thanks for the recommendation Kathryn! Townsend's book sounds very interesting; a spinster versus (or in cahoots with?!) the devil is a rare spin.

'Will definitely add it to my TBR list.

message 13: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
That book sounds fascinating! Why do we seldom hear of books that were obviously important (as far as theme anyway)? Does anyone feel that we are very "led" to what we read in our country? Are we really encouraged to read beyond the set curriculum or the best sellers' list? Some of the best books I have read as an adult, I sure never heard of in school.

Well, I think Jane, herself, would be very proud of us for exploring literature in this way. :]

message 14: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Also, I noticed that review of Lolly Willowes was written by Sarah Waters. I have never read her books. Does anyone know what they are like?

message 15: by Kathryn (last edited Dec 03, 2008 09:10AM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments I hope you will enjoy "Lolly Willowes" as much as I did. Yes, it's so sad that so many great books are neglected (and I must say are better than some of the "must reads" out there!!!)

A website you might all enjoy for too-long-neglected books:

From their homepage:
Persephone Books reprints forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of eighty-one books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups.

Now, it can be hard to locate all of these here in the US at affordable prices or the library, but at least it's a start!

And, no, I've not read any of Sarah Waters books.

message 16: by Sq77 (new)

Sq77 | 1 comments I think Candace Bushnell in her book Trading Up got pretty close to Austen style observations.

message 17: by Darcy (new)

Darcy What about an "update" of an Austen classic? "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" doesn't come out until April 15th--guess I'll have to pre-order ;)

message 18: by Cameron (new)

Cameron (glitterbaby) | 3 comments I really like this question and am going to look some of these books up.I haven`t read any of them

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Another great and fun book to read is
Jane Austen in boca, by: Paula Marantz Cohen. It's a version of Pride and Prejudice, but the setting is in a Jewish retirement community set in boca ratan, fl. I just loved the book it was so much fun. She also wrote another book that is an updated version of Persuasion. It's called Jane Austen in scarsdale: or love, death, and the SATs. The main character Anne is a highschool guidance counselor who was persuaded by her family to give up her poverty stricken boyfriend 13 years ago. Of course he's back and no longer broke. both of these are fun reads and I highly recommend them.

message 20: by Leshawn (new)

Leshawn | 25 comments Ashley,
I read "Jane Austen in Boca" a few years ago and thought it was a lot of fun as well!
I meant to get my hands on "Jane Austen in Scarsdale" but forgot. Thanks for the reminder!

message 21: by Cameron (new)

Cameron (glitterbaby) | 3 comments What about Rebecca?I don`t know anything about the Classics(except Wuthering Heights,which is fabulous).
I remember hearing about it but always forget to look it up.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I picked up Rebecca at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago and simply added it to my ever growing pile. I've always been curious about it, but never actually read it. Has anyone else read it before?

message 23: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Rebecca is a modern classic for good reason. It is a dark, windswept, Cornish mystery with fascinating characters. If published today, it might even be thought of as a woman's novel because it examines the conflict and evolution of a woman who marries a dashing wealthy man with something to hide. She finds herself living in the shadow of the dashing man's dead wife. There is so much more to it, but it is another novel I read when I was 14 and it has stayed with me all my life. It is definitely one of the best books of its kind.

I cant say it is really like Austen, because the plot and scope of the story is so different. It is fantastic writing though.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Another author that might be somewhat austenish could be Elizabeth Gaskel. I've read 'Cranford'and 'North and South' and enjoyed both.

message 25: by Ruth (new)

Ruth (ruthef) | 35 comments I've just started Wives and Daughters--- not liking it nearly as much as Austen and actually often find myself saying "She's not an Austen..." However, I am about 200 pages in and the new step-sister has arrived and the plot finally seems to thicken. Perhaps I will be able to enjoy it after all.

message 26: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 08, 2009 07:10PM) (new)

I haven't read that one, but I think I have it on one of my bookshelves. Has anyone read Georgette Heyer? I haven't but I was curious.

message 27: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
The authors you are mentioning really fall in the Austen tradition to me. Great suggestions!

Gaskell -- I have only read Cranford and thought it was brilliant. I didn't think the Masterpiece production of it did it justice actually. The writing was funny, sweet, sharp, understated -- my favorite kind of writing. I havent read her other works though.

Georgette Heyer falls more in the category of "Romance," but I also think she her writing was smart and funny. The subject matter and plots are usually a little lighter weight than Austen, but you should still check her out. I guess if there is such a thing as a "modern classic" in Romance, her books would fall there. And she mostly wrote about the Regency period I believe.

I also believe I read that Heyer inspired some real heavy-weight writers like A.S. Byatt, possibly Margaret Drabble and others. I think that a lot of Heyer's novels are being reissued these days with all those classic art covers -- you may have noticed them.

I will go ahead and mention for readers following this thread particularly, I plan to suggest some supplemental discussions here in the Jane Austen group.

Kathryn and I had a great time discussing the Barbara Pym novel in one of the threads. I plan to post a poll to see who is interested in reading any of the novels that we have been listing as "In the Austen Tradition." I will try to post that in the next few days and start a thread asking for any more suggestions.

What I am looking for is novels like the recent suggestions. Not Austen sequels or stories derived from her novels, but novels apart from Austen entirely with a similar style, good writing, and are somewhat "social comedies." I saw that term in a review and not sure I like the term overall. Anyone have any suggestions on what these "Tradition of Austen" novels might be called?

message 28: by Puck (new)

Puck (gentlepuck) | 159 comments Ashley wrote: "Another author that might be somewhat austenish could be Elizabeth Gaskel. I've read 'Cranford'and 'North and South' and enjoyed both. "

She's a bit too political for Austen but I like what you're saying.

message 29: by Kathryn (last edited Feb 09, 2009 01:49PM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments This might be too far a departure for what you're seeking, Sarah, but I thought I'd put it up there just in case anyone else is interested: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country It's a YA novel set in Regency England with a bit of wizardry on the side! I know a lot of fellow adults love it. My sister and I thought it was decent, but more for a comfort/casual read than anything meaty like with Austen or Pym!

message 30: by Ruth (new)

Ruth (ruthef) | 35 comments I did read the chocolate pot book and then sent it on to my mother to read. It is quite simple reading so would probably be a quick one for a discussion group. It's very entertaining and quite a different idea from many books.
I would encourage Edith Wharton as good reading.

message 31: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Feb 10, 2009 04:42PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Kathryn, we must be very close in our reading tastes because I love Caroline Stevermer. I have only read Scholar of Magics (?) and a small part of When the King Comes Home but I think she is a great writer. I have read more about Sorcery & Cecelia though. But I have been hoping there will be more "Magics" books. I dont know if those of hers are young adult category or not. The characters are adults in the story and they are mysteries really. Smart writing. She reminds me of another writer but I cant remember who now. Is Stevermer still writing? She co-authored the Sorcery books, right?

It is great to list recommendations of books that other readers here might like. We probably all tend toward classics, British, good stories about women, and maybe things just a bit offbeat. For example, you are the first person who has mentioned Stevermer novels in discussions I have been in.

Ruth, are there certain Edith Wharton novels you like? I am not too familiar with her, but would love to try some. Did she writer Summer, a novella I think?

I am really looking forward to reading more Barbara Pym also!

message 32: by Amy (new)

Amy (amy_lofgreen) | 9 comments I love this thread. I would love to see an entire list added to this group. What a resource to find books that we will probably like. Now what to call them. I too have heard of Austen refered to in the social comedy--but Ibsen is who comes to mind when I think of that genre and really can anyone think that Austen and Ibsen belong in the same group. So I think it is imperative we come up with the right name for this genre.

"Austenian" sounds a little pretensious, but it has a ring.

"Character analysis romance" sounds like freud has been writing.

Perhaps if we came up with parameters for what characteristics must be included to fit the criteria first--the name would become evident.

Some Suggestions for the criteria:
1. Romance
2. Smart women--at least a few
3. Cautionary tale of marrying the wrong man
4. Understated social commentary especially as it relates to women.
5. Great leading men
6. Wit
7. Believable, round characters

That is just a starting place. Please input!

message 33: by Ruth (new)

Ruth (ruthef) | 35 comments Sarah wrote: "Kathryn, we must be very close in our reading tastes because I love Caroline Stevermer. I have only read Scholar of Magics (?) and a small part of When the King Comes Home but I think she is a gre..."

I think Age of Innocence or House of Mirth by Wharton are both books that would fit well with this group. She did write Summer which I have not yet read. The synopsis I found sounded interesting. Her books are more contemporary than Austen, but still turn of the century and still somewhat a social commentary. That's what I would most agree with on your list Amy. I think Austen is writing about society and norms. I think she is poking fun at the rules of the day. Even though they are all about romance, I shy away from calling them "romance" as I deplore the shallow "romance" genre that we find on the shelves today. Austen was about so much more than romance.

message 34: by Kathryn (last edited Feb 11, 2009 09:54AM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments Sarah, yes, Stevermer co-authored the "Sorcery & Cecelia" book with Patricia Wrede. It actually began as a letter game they played one summer but they became so fascinated with the characters and plot that it really grew beyond just a little pastime and at the end of the summer they though, "There's a book in here!" I love that! :-) I will have to check out Stevermer's other works as this was her first for me; I'd read Wrede's DEALING WITH DRAGONS books in my teens and loved them.

I second the recommendation of The Age of Innocence on this thread. I read it last summer and thought it was fabulous. Also, it is a bit different than Austen in that it is from a male POV but really focused in on the roles of women in society, which I thought was really fascinating!

Amy, "Austenian" -- haha, love that! :->

message 35: by Amy (new)

Amy (amy_lofgreen) | 9 comments Is there anywhere on this site that we can make our "Austenian List" or do we have to go to Amazon or somehting? It would be great if it could be connected with this group. Who has access to create a new bookshelf for the group? I feel compelled to see the list in list form. My OCD getting the better of me.

message 36: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Hi Amy,

I will get back shortly with more comments on our thread but wanted to answer your question. I can check out the possibility of an extra bookshelf -- dont know if that is possible -- but of course we can designate categories for each book on the regular shelf, so we may have to go with that option. Either way, we will figure out the mechanics of a new category of discussion! Be back shortly!

message 37: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod

We had already listed a few of the books we have been talking about on the current group shelf. As I listed, I categorized them as "in the tradition of." So when you go into the book shelf, you see this category in the left column. Select that and you ONLY see those books listed for the shelf. We can continue with this as our method, which may be our only choice.

Forgive me if you knew all that -- you may do that with your personal book shelf on GoodReads already -- but regardless, it was worth mentioning maybe for anyone new to GoodReads.

message 38: by Ruth (new)

Ruth (ruthef) | 35 comments What about Virginia Woolf for a read? I don't know if I've seen her mentioned here. She's not quite an Austen because the feel of her stories are much different and yet she's an excellent female writer--and social commentary?? wow

message 39: by Bluedaizy (new)

Bluedaizy | 1 comments LOVE LOVE LOVE this thread! You all are making my TBR impossible to read. I found Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own very inspirational.

message 40: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Hi readers,

Sorry I was away from this thread for a while -- the real world creeps in ...

I have been pondering and playing with words for our new reading list we are trying to create. I searched on the web to give me ideas and I found:

Heirs of Austen - which we could probably use but give credit to Rachel Mather who wrote a book by this name. She was comparing 3 early 20thc. authors to Austen, but she DID use that term social comedy. So we might like to keep the term but make it fit our own profile for the types of books we list.

Also found the term:
Missing Austen - this was from an essay by another writer, referring to Henry James' view of Austen and the term had an altogether different meaning. When I saw it though I thought, isn't this what we are here in our group are doing -- missing Austen and wanting to find more good authors to move us on through great lit?

I was also looking at Amy's neat ponderings in the above post and thinking more about our book criteria. It is a shame we think what we do of the "romance" because that is really a good description. Anyone have alternate terms that mean romance - romance not always with the love match, but romance with life, discovering self, etc.?

So, post more suggestions. After we define and file a few in the library -- would you like to make nominations and vote on a group read from among our list?

message 41: by Ruth (new)

Ruth (ruthef) | 35 comments Liasons and entanglements???
--out of Websters Thesaurus

message 42: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Good terms! I think we will have to include them in some way! Entanglements sounds like a word from an earlier time, doesnt it?

message 43: by Kathryn (last edited Feb 20, 2009 08:00AM) (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments I'm currently rereading LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle and it came to me that it is a little bit like Austen in that it is a romance, but also a social commentary and a novel about a young woman who manages to find her independence in a family and society that would otherwise have smothered her with rules and regulations. There's a lot here about religious expectations and the plight of an "old maid." If you've read the "Anne of Green Gables" books please note that this is very different--I mean, yes, it still has the beautiful, poetic descriptions, yes, it is still LMM in style, but it is really much more "grown-up" (Valancy, our heroine, is 29 and as yet unmarried as the tale begins) It's set, I'm guessing, in the 1910s, in Canada. Do check it out, if you haven't already. Everyone I know loves it!!! (Don't be put off by the horribly romanc-y cover art, by the way!)

message 44: by Rachael (new)

Rachael (rprensner) | 35 comments Georgette Heyer comes to my mind. She's a regency romance writer- but her books are definitely not what you would normally think of as "Romance Novels." Sometimes when I'm reading her, it feels quite a bit like Austen. The keen observation, the devastating wit, the social constraints, and of course the regency flavor, are all there. Try Arabella.

message 45: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Blayre, see the comments we made on Heyer in this thread on 2/08 and 2/09.

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

I'd like to try a book by Georgette Heyer. Maybe tomorrow I'll pick one up.

message 47: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
So, readers who have followed this thread in the past, I just posted a folder in the group called Austen Inspired for novels inspired by Austen and in some way include Austen or her works in the plot.

So I didnt want to abandon our desire to unite THIS thread in some way -- should we post a separate folder for the literary heirs of Austen? If so -- did anyone ever conclude a good name?

I will recap on the types of novels we were dicussing here:

Not books based on or inspired by Austen
Not books derived from her storylines
Books from Austen's time forward that deal with similar social situations, characters examining life and the world, changing society, changing roles
Looking at the thread above you see titles from romance, general fiction, fantasy, etc.

My label choices were Heirs of Austen and Missing Jane. I would label a folder with the name and add our above literature titles to the bookshelf AND we might have some group discussions.

So, are any of you readers still in favor? If you want to go ahead and nominate some novels to discuss, please do.

message 48: by Ann (new)

Ann | 69 comments I'm still in favor!:D I'll put my thinking cap on for books to nominate;) Thanks, Sarah.

message 49: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 98 comments I'm in favor. I think it's good to maybe intersperse these with Austen titles, anyway, or we will, sadly, run out of reading!

message 50: by Ann (new)

Ann | 69 comments Good point, Kathryn.

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