“Jane Austen” from Women Who Made History: Writers and Artists by Julia Adams
I was shelving this series at the library and when I saw that it had a profile on Jane Austen, you know I had to read it.
Th series Women Who Made History is split into four books on influential women in different occupations: Activists and Leaders, Adventurers and Athletes, Inventors and Scientists, & Writers and Artists.
This book, Writers and Artists, is split into the following sections:
Artists and Writers
Kiri Te Kanawa
Simone de Beauvoir
Joanne J.K.) Rowling
Millo Castro Zaldarriaga
Grace Cossington Smith
I thought there would be more on Jane Austen but there is only a half page located in the Making History section.
It is two paragraphs giving a basic and brief overview of Jane Austen’s writing life. I was a little disappointed as all the other writers in the book were all given a full page or two pages and much more description on their life and works.
It’s not bad little book and is a great resource if you want to have children read a snippet of influential women in order to find one that captures their interest; later supplementing it with a longer biography.
I also really enjoy the illustrations as they are adorable and very cute.
If you want a more in-depth biography of Jane Austen, this book isn’t for you; but if you are looking for something small or an “appetizer” this is one for you.
My book club is reading Emma, my pick, and I was hoping to get a copy of the audiobook from the Libby app to listen to.
I enjoy listening to audiobooks and sometimes when I hear the book instead of reading it, I pick up on something that I hadn’t noticed before. Plus it is so easy to play it when cleaning, cooking, driving, etc.
However, when searching for audiobooks Libby only has two Emma copies. One has an extremely long waitlist while the other was currently available. The first I had been on the waitlist forever and a day and had no illusions of it getting to me before we had our book club meeting. I did think it was odd that one audiobook should have so many holds and a six month waitlist and the other none, but I reasoned it as I must have just been lucky to spot a new addition to the app before all the others. I borrowed it and downloaded it immediately.
However, when I began listening to it I realized that it was in Spanish, not English.
As I have mentioned before I am Mexican but I am not fluent in Spanish (although I wish I was!). When it comes to understanding Spanish and translating it to English I do a lot better with the written word than hearing it. I think another reason why I struggled with this audiobook is that Austen is using words that aren’t as commonly used today, translated into Spanish, and I’m trying to retranslate it back into English. Although some lines I had memorized I could still follow along with, for instance the opening line.
So while I decided to give the audiobook a try it was a struggle. That is no reflection to the actual piece as I did think it was a good adaption as felt Nuria Mediavilla did very well in narrating. The only thing I had an issue with so that some of the pronunciation of the words follow the “Spanish” Spanish dialect which means that some of the words have the “th” sound; for example diez, diez y ocho, etc. are pronounced dieth, dieth y ocho, etc.
I would recommend it to those who are fluent in Spanish and looking for a Jane Austen audiobook to give it a listen. Although the Spanish “th” might be hard to hear if that’s not the type of Spanish you are used to hearing.
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things Audiobook by Paula Byrne, Narrated by Kate Reading
Back in 2013 I was adding different books to my endless to-read list on Goodreads.
When I saw this book and added it to my list and then forgot all about it.
Fast forward to 2023 and I was scrolling the audiobooks on the Libby app looking for something new to listen to when I spotted this book, The Real Jane Austen, and decided to give it a listen.
I really enjoyed this book a lot, my only regret is that I didn’t have the print version which would have been easier for me to take notes; as I really, really loved this biography. It was so good!
However, the audiobook was still extremely enjoyable and I strongly recommend this to any Jane Austen fan.
The Real Jane Austen is a biography in a completely different format. Most biographies start with Jane Austen’s life and follow a timeline from birth to death. In The Real Jane Austen each chapter starts with an object in Jane Austen’s world-vellum notebook, a barouche, a simple gold chain, a bathing machine, etc.; and discusses it significance to her and it’s role in her novels.
One of my favorite chapters was the one on The Barouhe. I always knew transportation was important, but I never really thought about how important it was, and how not having your own carriages, barouches, or other modes of transportation left you at the mercy of others schedules and plans. Bryne talks about how without your own vehicle, especially as a woman, one would have to wait for elder brothers to come and get them; sometimes having to leave earlier then they wished or stay much longer than they liked.
Also having your own barouche or other vehicle meant you “arrived in society”; and if you drove your own vehicle you were both glamorous and dangerous.
It also gave new meaning to me about John Thorpe’s bragging about his vehicle.
He’s really trying to impress Catherine. I mean he is really trying to show her how glamorous, dangerous, and flourishing he is.
Another part I really enjoyed was hearing about how Jane Austen used to write on the back of the novels she owned (by other authors) what she thought happened to the characters. That made me think she would be happy to hear that her readers do the same with her characters.
Or at least most of them. 😆
Another point I found very interesting was how Bryne points out that Jane Austen heroines are never described really as attractive physically, typically being average, and it’s their internal qualities and intelligence that are more beautiful and draw people to them. Catherine is not a great beauty, Emma is handsome not beautiful, Elizabeth has fine eyes but the rest of her features are average, etc. I like that their brain, intelligence, and personality is what first strikes people’s attention; their beauty growing the more they spend time together.
These are just a few of the thoughts I had after reading this biography, I do have a few more percolating into becoming the possibility of a full blown post.
Again, I recommend this book to any Jane Austen fan. It was extremely interesting, and I really enjoyed every part. I do think that it would be best to read a traditional biography first to have a sense of Jane Austen’s life; but if you already have read one, or several, then definitely check this book out.
Rebecca is one of my favorite gothic fiction books. Like Frankenstein, I watched the movie first and absolutely adored it. It’s one of my favorite films and one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films.
I like to kid that Rebecca is Northanger Abbey’s great grandchild as it takes place roughly four generations after Northanger Abbey and has similarities to Austen’s work.
The book starts in the present (1938) with one of the best opening lines: “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly”. And has our main character, who’s name is unknown, eating with her husband Maxim de Winter.
The fact that we never know the name of our narrator is one of the most fascinating literary mysteries and always makes me wonder, did Du Maurier do that to further have her character be a “shrinking Violet”? To have us mistrust what she says? To help us fully be in the story as how often do you use your own name?
Our main character looks at her husband and while they are pleased in their life they will never be truly happy as so much has been lost. True happiness will never be achieved since Manderly is no more. Like Northanger Abbey, Pemberley, Mansfield Park, etc, Manderly does not just represent a home but also a certain state of who our characters are. And it is no longer. How did that happen…let’s go back…?
We are then taken back to years earlier when our main character was a companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, a wealthy woman who moves around to places the rich and famous go as even though she has money, she is always trying to advance herself somehow by making connections. On one such trip she tries to befriend Maxim de Winter, a wealthy landowner from Cornwall, but he is not interested, he has plans and will be away.
While Mrs. Van Hopper does want to be friends with Maxim de Winter, at the same time she is a little happy he rebuffed her as there are a lot of rumors surrounding him. The number one is that he absolutely loved and adored his wife, still mourning her death.
When Mrs. Van Hopper falls ill our main character (MC) finds herself with time to do whatever she wants, but what does she want to do? Uncertain, our MC goes to lunch early and expects to be alone but spots the handsome Maxim de Winter. She accidentally knocks over her flower vase and spills all the water on the table, with Maxim inviting her over to sit with him.
The two begin spending all their time together, Maxim appreciating her sweetness and innocence; and she absolutely adoring him. Eventually the Main Character is called away to return to America, but Maxim saves her by asking that she marry him. After their honeymoon they go back to his home in Manderly and this is where the gothic drama starts.
When they arrive at Manderly it is a beautiful place but our Main Character feels lost and alone. She has no airs, no country hobbies (shooting, riding, etc), she feels out of place, and everything looks and reminds her of the first wife Rebecca. Not only does the house feel full of Rebecca’s spirit, but the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers loved Rebecca and continues to try and bring down our Main Character’s spirit.
Our Main character tries to find her place but keeps getting emotionally knocked down and around by Mrs. Danvers and others.
But there is more to the story of Rebecca than a beautiful socialite. Rebecca had many secrets and while our Main Character starts to uncover things, she finds the truth that the members of the house might not be able to handle if revealed.
This is a wonderful gothic story that I recommend for Northanger Abbey fans and any gothic fiction lovers.
I have always wondered if Daphne du Maurier wrote this book in response to Northanger Abbey, due to their similarities; such as Northanger Abbey was a response to Don Quixote and the Female Quixote.
Both have a sweet, innocent, gullible, lower income girl who is given a trip to an expensive tourist destination. For Catherine she gets to go with people she likes and care about her to Bath, for the Main Character she is a hired companion to a rude woman and goes to Monte Carlo.
Both ladies meet a very handsome man of which rumors swirl around their family; to them the guy is special and stands out. When they meet this man, they immediately fall for him, being consumed with being with him.
The guy they fall for is older than them and sarcastic.
The scene when the Main Character is being forced to leave and wants to reach Maxim, having incredible anxiety that she will never see him again; is so similar to Catherine’s panic attack when she misses their walking date and is so urgent to apologize and make up with him.
When I first read this book I was in my teens and connected to the main character a lot more, but now being an adult and having been in an abusive marriage, Maxim makes a lot more sense to me and he is the one I relate to. I love how he enjoys the main character’s company as she is so sweet and innocent, how clear he is in what he wants (nothing like his first wife), and even the trauma he’s encountered and how that affects the way he acts.
I love this gothic novel and again recommend it to those who love gothic fiction and Northanger Abbey.
For more Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to Frankenstein
There are numerous variations of Jane Austen’s works, but while those adaptations are fun, sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. Sometimes you want Austen-like works, but not exactly the same as Austen’s works. But what can you read instead?
That’s why I started this series. I will be reviewing books that have components of what we love about the Austen novels, but are not just another retelling, but their own unique story.
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Simran “Simi” Samgha is fifteen years old and comes from a long line of matchmakers. However, she doesn’t want to be a matchmaker, she wants to be an “artist”.
I know, well off “rich” girl going against her family to be an artist; it’s a tired old cliche, but I actually enjoyed this one.
However, after Simi is able to match up her cousin Preet (who the talented matchmakers/family members have failed to do so) with a soon-to-be lawyer Jolly (who both her aunt and mother overlooked as they thought he was a employee instead of the owner’s son); they are convinced that Simi has the “gift”.
Simi’s wants nothing to do with it as she is already preoccupied; she and her friend Noah are determined to do something in order to make more friends and be higher up on the social scale.
Noah asks more about her family’s matchmaking and comes up with the idea to use The Shagun Matchmaking Guide principles and turn it into an app that all the kids at high school can use. Noah and Simi plot out the questions and other parts of the app and then recruit Simi’s brother to actually build Matched!
They do and it is a success, mostly. People get matched up with those they might not have spoken to due to who they normally hang out with. Everything is done by percentages so you know our of all those who are on the app and your sexual preference, the top people you matched up with.
Problems arise when Amanda wants to use the app to get back with her boyfriend Ethan. Ethan and Amanda are both very popular, but while Ethan is incredibly kind and friendly, Amanda is terrible and mean to all. She picks on everybody, but especially Simi; Ethan caught her and that’s what ended their relationship. Instead of Amanda, Ethan gets matched up with new girl, Teá. Simi helps the two meet up for dates, but while they enjoy each other’s company, Ethan is extremely popular and Amanda definitely will not let this go without a fight. It looks like trouble is on the horizon for this couple.
On the Simi and Noah front, Simi gets matched up with her crush and dream guy, Aidan. Aidan is everything she has wanted in a guy, cute, funny, and an artist. The hang out a couple times but he turns out to not be that dreamy of a guy, having her help him make art but then turning it in as all his own project.
Simi starts to develop for new boy and Jolly’s cousin Suraj. However, Suraj matched really high with Simi’s friend Jassi. Will Simi go after the boy she likes? Or like a good matchmaker put her clients ahead of herself?
While Simi and Noah work on helping their Matched! couples, Amanda starts a campaign to try and stop them, harasses Teá and Simi, and even tries to get them suspended.
But everything comes to a head when the ancient The Shagun Matchmaking Guide is stolen from Simi. Now she has to admit everything to her mother and hope that she won’t be too mad when she hears about the app making, the stolen book, and possible suspension.
Of course the most obvious connection of this to Austen’s work is Emma. While Simi is not so extroverted as Emma Woodhouse, being more of an Anne Elliot; quiet, friendly, always lending a hand, and there for everyone; the matchmaking connection definitely has some Emma vibes. However in Matched in Mehendi, Simi is more of a Harriet just going along with her best friend, and Noah is the Emma Woodhouse in this story. He’s the one that pushes the matchmaking and wants to move the two into the spotlight.
However the real Emma connection is Aiden. Aiden is who Simi has built up as her perfect dream guy, he’s everything she wants in a guy and matches what she thinks is the “perfect” artist. This is similar to Emma and Frank as from the letters, what was said about him, and his appearance; Frank matched what she envisioned was perfect, but in reality he had a lot of faults. And the person she never thought about being interested in Mr. Knightley, becomes her dream guy; just like how Simi feels Suraj and her are not right but he turns out to be her dream guy.
I definitely recommend this for romance, Jane Austen, and Emma fans.