Austen in August 2019: Top Ten Reads

Someone asked me the other day if I was doing Austen in August this year. The answer is … yes. But between the ever unpredictable Astronaut, job-hunting (found one!) and other pressing offline matters, I am a little behind. This year’s Austen in August will be smaller and shall most likely be tailing into September and even possibly beyond. Still, I’ve been enjoying revisiting my personal Austen back-catalogue and as an advance preview, I wanted to share my Austen targets for this year – please feel free to make reasonable suggestions!

The Jane Austen Project

The Jane Austen Project, Kathleen Flynn

This book’s author sent me a copy of this nearly a year ago, shortly after my son’s birth. Accompanied was a really lovely note and for that reason alone, this one has been high up on my list. But given that it also comes with a recommendation from Paula Byrne, author of two of my favourite Austen biographies, it seems like it is well worth checking out.

 

Pride and Promiscuity

I admit it. I’ve read this already. It’s so … daft. For a book so blatantly idiotic though, it inspired a lot of thoughts and so I’m looking forward to sharing what I think. Spoilers however – my main takeaway is to wonder why on earth modern readers always assume that they need to rediscover sex on Austen’s behalf. There are no ‘lost sex scenes’ because the sex is always right there on the page – you just need to pay attention!

 

The Other Bennet Sister

Mary Bennet is having a really good few years. After reading The Forgotten Sister a few years ago, I have now found two different Mary-centric spin-offs to investigate further. I read Janice Hadlow’s The Strangest Family and absolutely loved it so I’m really hoping for another Longbourn here.

 

Perception

I remember being really disappointed when I didn’t get a review copy of this last year so when I spotted the Kindle edition, I decided to take a closer look. Another Mary story, this one also takes a look at Kitty who in my view is the real forgotten Bennet sister.

 

Cassandra’s Sister

I found this in a charity shop quite a long time ago and it has since languished unread. I feel a little wary of a book that fictionalises the life of Jane Austen herself as being potentially disrespectful around the life of a ‘real’ person. This seems really strange though given how avidly I read historical fiction. Where exactly do I draw the distinction? Is it that Jane Austen was a private citizen whereas (to pluck a random example), Henry VIII was not? Either way, this looks a promising read.

 

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen

A real Austen in August cheat here – it isn’t even released until September! But I’ve got it pre-ordered and I am interested in how it is already getting a fair amount of review hype. Jane Austen and time travel seem to be becoming very popular so I’m looking forward to investigating this very specific sub-genre further.

 

Becoming Jane

I watched the film Becoming Jane and loved it. Saw it in the cinema. Swooned over James McCoy. Saw it again about a week later. Swooned once more. I never read the biography upon which it was based though. These days, I have my own view as to the film’s realism (I think we all know Miss Austen Regrets has more of a basis in reality) but I am interested to find out about the source material.

 

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

I’ll be honest – I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. I bought it during a glorious trip to Mr B’s Emporium last year and then I didn’t run Austen in August and then I had a baby and my brain was too fried to appreciate it. Not everyone gets excited at the prospect of thirty-three essays on the subject of why Jane Austen is brilliant but I certainly do.

 

Emma

The Borough Press’ Austen Project has run badly out of puff with only four out of the six books updated and no new releases since 2016. Sigh. It all started so well with Val McDermid. Still, the completist in me wants to see it through to the end. Plus, I’ve never actually read anything by Alexander McCall Smith and I don’t quite know how that happened. So here goes.

 

Northanger Abbey

I couldn’t do Austen in August without going back to the original books but I also couldn’t decide which one to pick. So I asked Boy Who Reads Not A Lot whether I should go with Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey (he has read neither) and he picked this as abbeys are better than parks. Hmm. Northanger Abbey is the one I was warned off as a child and which I only read for the first time at eighteen so I don’t have as extended a history with it as I do with the other five books. What will that mean for the reread?

 

A year (nearly) into parenthood, I’m still finding it a challenge to have time and energy at the same time when it comes to blogging so it’s exciting to have a plan together to do some Austening over the next few weeks and months. If anyone else wants to join in, it would be lovely to have company!

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8 thoughts on “Austen in August 2019: Top Ten Reads

  1. Congratulations on finding a job!

    I have read some of the above books, obviously, though not all and look forward to your take on them.

    I have never encountered the phrase “run out of puff” before and am enchanted. (In America we only run out of steam.) But whatever it ran out of, I am also curious about what happened to that endeavor. Did the editor who was championing move to another publishing house? Could they not find anyone willing to take on Mansfield Park?

    1. Haha – thank you! It’s not full-time, still planning on having lots of time with the Astronaut 🙂

      I am really enjoying having Austen time again and enjoying a certain one of the books in particular 🙂

      So funny how English and American English can be two different languages! I think that the reviews for the Borough Press books weren’t too enthusiastic so I almost wonder if they just ran out of takers? Who needs a poorly-received book in their canon? I also really don’t know how you could translate Mansfield Park to the present day (although they did manage with S & S and that was a big stretch). I also think that a lot of what was going in with the Navy in Persuasion would be tricky to do. But still, it’s a shame because it was an interesting idea.

  2. For my Austen in August I’m reading Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, but I must admit that A Truth Universally Acknowledged sounds delightful, exactly the sort of book that would excite me as well! I’ll have to see if my library owns a copy.

    Congratulations on the new job!

  3. Great news, both re your new job and that you have the time to take part in Austen in August this year. I haven’t read many of the titles on your list, so it will be great to here your thoughts.
    Pride and Promiscuity sounds utterly nonsensicle, but unfortunately the trend of trying to sex up Austen, and indeed other classic writers is not showing any signs of going away soon. Only the other week, I read an interview with Andrew Davies about his future ITV adaptation of Sanditon, which rang some very serious alarm bells. I’ll probably end up watching it, so that I can at least criticise it with knowledge, but I can already guess what it will contain, and I reckon it will have very little to do with Austen.

    1. Ha! I know – I’ll probably end up watching Sanditon too but I really don’t know what it’s going to be like given how much it was left undone. I really liked The Watsons when I read it and it felt like it could have gone anywhere whereas Sanditon never really grabbed me. I think it would have been a real departure for her if she had been able to finish it but she didn’t and I’m not convinced about what this will be like.
      I was unsure about whether I’d be able to do Austen in August this year and it will be on my own schedule but getting back into the Austen fun is always fun – I hope you can join in!

    1. Haha – it’s so funny, that was a throwaway comment as I hadn’t been talking about that here but it’s been lovely to get the congratulations!
      If you do get a chance to do any Austening, please do let me know 🙂 I’m really enjoying getting stuck in!

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