book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

June 3rd, 2022

Hi Readers!

I’ve given this book a few reads now, and it’s still my least favourite Jane Austen and the only one that ever feels like a struggle to read.

| Published: 1814 |
| Genre: Classic |
| Themes: Romance, Class |
| Length: 488 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally.

During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.

Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound. 

Mansfield Park is the third novel Austen published after Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and it just doesn’t have the same intrigue or excitement as it’s predecesor’s. The main flaw for me lies in it’s two main characters.

Mansfield Park becomes the home of Fanny Price after she is taken in by her Aunt and Uncle to relieve her mother of the burden of having too many children to care for. Fanny as a child feels out of place, careful not to make the wrong move for fear of annoying or disrupting her relatives. She doesn’t feel she quite belongs. Perhaps that’s why she’s such a meek, dull character.

Her cousin Edmund, who is just as unexciting, tries his best to help her settle which eventually leads to Fanny falling in love with him. Now, I know Austen knows how to write a romance. But this one was bland and icky and I was not rooting for them. Even after finishing it, I wasn’t convinced.

In terms of social themes, this is the most interesting of Austen’s books however. Fanny comes from a poor family with parents who have too many children they can care for. Fanny’s mother married ‘beneath her,’ and paid the price by being cast aside by her family and finding herself married to a drunk sailor. I think this book shows us what Austen’s view of the lower classes were and it isn’t favourable.

But it still some of her wit and humour comes through, and there were certainly some entertaining moments. I’ve seen some people have said Fanny’s character is actually a satire of the ‘perfect, angelistic romantic heroine’ and I do think it would be quite interesting to read the book in that light. I should have learnt by now never to take Austen seriously.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

A Favourite Book | Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

February 11th, 2021

Hi Readers!

Do you have that book you’ve reread more times than any other? A book you love so much you can’t go a year without revisiting it? Pride and Prejudice is that book for me. It’s the first classic (and adult book?) I read when I was 15, and it propelled my reading taste to what it is today. It’s remained a firm favourite ever since.

| Published: 1813 |
| Genre: Classic Romance |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 279 Pages |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

In regency England, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ At least, that’s what the Bennet’s hope for when Mr Bingley, a rich and pleasant bachelor, moves to their kneck of the woods. With him comes Mr Darcy, who doesn’t make so good a first impression, especially to Elizabeth Bennet.

Pride and Prejudice gives an intricate but entertaining insight into the life of the middle/upper class in regency England. The famous first sentance, ‘It is universally acknowledged that a man in posession of good fortune must be in want of a wife,’ sets off the whole theme of the book perfectly. Marriage. It’s the thought that constantly hangs over the Bennet sisters (and their mothers) heads. To marry and marry well.

Her business in life was to get her daughters married; it’s solace was visiting and news.

It’s an anxiety driven thought explored so well by Austen, bringing to light the position she and her sister themselves were in. She and the Bennets shared the same misfortune of being women, and, due to their position, these girls would lose their family home and money to the closest male relative when their father dies. With few opportunities to earn money themselves, they must rely on marrying well in order to avoid destitution. It’s this thought that drives all of their actions.

‘Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three-and-twenty! Lord how ashamed I should be not being married before three-and-twenty!’

Except for Elizabeth Bennet, the second youngest Bennet sister and main protagonist in this novel. She is one of my favourite characters to read. She’s quick witted and not afraid to say what she thinks, putting more than one character in their place throughout the course of this novel. She’s also strong willed, and seeks more from marriage than just security.

“you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person – Pray, what is your age?”

“With three younger sisters grown up,” replied Elizabeth smiling, “your ladyship can hardly expect me to own to it.”

She’s an incredibly written heroine with so much depth and personality. You’ll feel as though she’s a friend by the end of the book. Then there’s her love interest Mr Darcy. I think it’s collectively agreed upon that Mr Darcy is one of the most swoon worthy fictional characters ever written. He doesn’t make the best first impression, but Austen so cleverly plots this book that you find you’ve fallen in love with him the same moment Elizabeth has.

It’s one of the first hate to love romances and the tension between them builds so perfectly. This book has one of the most romantic (and slightly misguided) declarations of love I know.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Before annotating this book, it had kind of escaped my notice how funny Pride and Prejudice is! I knew it had it’s moments, but it was only when I found myself picking up the orange (the colour allocated for funny moments) gel pen, time and time again that I realised just how often Austen has her characters saying and doing the funniest things. Her quick wit is unmatched!

This will forever remain a favourite, and I strongly contest it is one of the best books ever written. A must read for absolutely everyone!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

November 19th, 2021

| Released: December 1817 |
| Publisher: John Murray |
| Genre: Classic Romance |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 240 Pages |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Catherine Morland should know better. She’s the very ideal of a nice, normal girl. But Catherine is cursed with an overactive imagination. She is also obsessed with lurid Gothic novels, where terrible things happen to the heroine. Which gets her into all sorts of trouble…

When Catherine visits Bath and meets funny, sharp Henry Tilney, she’s instantly taken with him. But when she is invited to the Tilneys’ home, the sinister Northanger Abbey, fantasy starts to get in the way of reality. Will she learn to separate out the two?

Northanger Abbey was possibly the first full length novel Jane Austen wrote, but the road to publication was not an easy one. The first time she sold this book, it was for £10 to a book seller who failed to publish it. Years later her brother bought the book back for the same sum and Jane presumedly made some alterations to the book for later publication, which she didn’t live to see.

Despite the struggle for this novel to be published, it’s still being read a talked about over 200 years later. It’s best known for it’s satirical take on the gothic literature, a genre so popular in Austen’s time, and the main character’s (whose likeness is supposed to be that of Jane herself) love for books and overactive imagination.

Northanger Abbey is one of the earliest published novels that Austen worked on which just shows how natural her quick wit and sharp tone developed into her writing. Whilst I think you can tell she was young when she first wrote this story, as the plot doesn’t feel quite as strong as her later novels, her irony is never more presant. Northanger Abbey shows her cheeky, humerous side with it’s mock take on gothic tropes and drama, and basically points out the obsurdity of those books when compared with real life.

The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation.

Catherine is the youngest of all her protagonists. Being just seventeen, she’s still a teenager and has an obvious naivety and innocence which definitely shows her age. Her opposite, for example, is Anne from Janes final novel Persuasion. Anne, the oldest of Janes protagonists, is mature, self-aware and very observant. Catherine has ‘a mind as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is,’ and must overcome the rather awkward situations her poor judge of character and rash decisions put her in.

The side characters were as well built as Catherine. The beginning of this novel finds Catherine being thrust into high society wholly unprepared. There she meets Isabelle Thorpe, who quickly takes advantage of the young and ignorant Catherine by befriending and influencing her. The love interest Henry Tilney, whilst being a bit more plain than his Austen counterparts, has an endearing side with his shared love for Catherines books.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Henry Tilney

This might be the least well plotted of Austen’s novels and did lag a bit around the middle, but there’s still so much to love about Northanger Abbey and is well worth a read for anyone looking for a lighter take on the gothic genre.

Would I Read Again? Yes (already have, a few times now)
Would I Recommend? Yes

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Persuasion by Jane Austen

October 4th, 2021

| Published: 1817 |
| Genre: Classic |
| Themes: Romance, Class, Society |
| Length: 249 Pages |
| Source: Own |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

This book, true to its name, follows the theme of Persuasion. In the beginning of the book we’re introduced to the Eliot’s, an aristocratic family falling on hard times. They must economise and, following the advice of friends, plan to move to Bath.

Our protagonist Anne however is not a fan of the idea and decides to stay with her neighbour and friend. She wasn’t to know that this decision would reacquaint her with a man whom she was engaged to, until her family persuaded her to break it off due to his being ‘unworthy’

Published posthumously six months after her death, Jane Austen would never know the praise this book would garner. From readers to scholars, this is widely regarded as her best, most maturely written work about the powers of persuasion and how it can effect young love.

Anne Elliot is older than Austen’s other protagonists which definitely makes the tone of this book stand out from the others. Anne’s maturity means she is a lot more sure of herself and aware of others. She’s observant and composed, not self-possessed like Emma or proud like Lizzy.

Her word had no weight – she was only Anne.

Persuasion

Her ex-betrothed, Captain Wentworth, is a character worthy of Mr Darcy praise. Again, he’s very different to Jane’s other love interests. Wentworth is a self-made man who cares little for title or aristocracy. He’s very likeable and I would’ve liked to have seen more of him on the page.

We also have the classically Austen comedic characters in the form of the other Elliots. Whilst Anne is sensible and self-aware, her family and too proud for their own good, and they think much to highly of themselves. I had a good time laughing at them!

This is the last novel Jane completed. It ended up being her shortest but, in my opinion, her most well written story. As in her other novels she brings a lot of attention to social status and made very clear her own opinion of it. She really puts a lot of herself in her writing…

It’s thought Austen wrote this after she played a part in persuading her niece to reject a marriage offer. Whether she felt guilty about this or whether she wanted to justify it I honestly can’t determine. Whilst it’s clear Anne Elliot’s family were wrong about Wentworth, Austen does attempt to defend them by saying that any questionable match should rightfully be questioned by the family.

I also think this could have been Austen’s way of giving them a happy ending. This book is all about second chances and the idea that, if two people are meant for each other, they’ll be together eventually. It’s almost a fairytale romance set in Georgian England.

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.”

Persuasion

This may not be her most famous work with a big Hollywood adaptation, but it’s still a must read for any Austen fan.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Longbourn by Jo Baker

January 11th, 2021

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| Published: 2013 by Vintage |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Retelling |
| Length: 447 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ :star ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

The first book of 2021 has set this reading year off to a fantastic start. I don’t know what’s to come, but I already feel like I’ve found a book that will make my top 10 of the year list.

What Is It About?

Think Upstairs, Downstairs, but Pride and Prejudice. This is the classic story we all know, but told from the Longbourn staffs points of view. There’s Mrs Hill, head house keeper who keeps the place running and her frail husband. Polly, the young and less dedicated maid. Sarah, who’s worked at Longbourn most her life, and the newcomer James, who doesn’t start off on the right foot with Sarah.

What Did I Think?

I don’t know about you, but I put a lot of pressure on finding the perfect book to be the first book of the year I read. I normally reread a favourite but this year I decided to read a book that is based on a favourite, Pride and Prejudice.

In Bakers reimagination of the classic romance, while the Bennett sisters find husbands, the servants downstairs are going about their daily tasks whilst finding romance of their own. It’s not a sequel or continuation, but the servants story alongside the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcey.

It made me look at the characters of Pride and Prejudice in a much less flattering light. Like, you think Elizabeth long walks and disregard to her clothing is charming and quirky? Her servants sure don’t think so! Baker isn’t shy about revealing the truths about society in this period, and that includes going deeper into the ‘trading’ in which Bingley likely got his money. Slavery.

The reason I gave it four and not five stars was because I don’t think the plot is as well structured as Austen’s was. Baker kind of tries to immitate the love triangle we see in Pride and Prejudice with one of the servants and it just doesn’t work as well. Their emotions just don’t show through the page and I felt none of their passion, so it did fall a little flat.

But this gives such an interesting look into the working life of a Georgian servant. It’s incredible the amount of effort it took just to keep these houses running and I feel like I learnt a lot. Baker really did her research and it really makes you sympathise with these previously invisible figures.

I think this is a must read for anyone who likes Historical Fiction. Knowing the plot of Pride and Prejudice isn’t necessary as I think it’s easy to follow whether you know the plot or not.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Emma by Jane Austen | 2020 Movie Review

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Hi Readers!

When this came out in cinemas I never got the chance to see it but when Lionsgate surprised us by home releasing it early (best thing to come out of this pandemic imo) I jumped at the chance to watch it.

I’ve now watched three adaptations of Emma. The 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow movie, the 2009 mini series and this one Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and directed by Autumn De Wilde. It’s a close call because I love this story and Emma’s character so much, so I do love all the adaptations, but, I think, this new one is my favourite.

The book is one of my favourite Austen’s. It’s got great character growth and humour and Jane’s sarcastic and ironic tone really shines through the character of Emma. This movie above all other adaptations really got that. A lot of the script is direct dialogue from the book and it really brought the 200 year old book to life.

It was vibrant and fresh. The costumes were eye-catching and the sets were breath-taking. It may be a story a lot of us know and love but this new adaptation is like you’ve never seen Austen before.

Another amazing thing this about this movie is that it was directed by a woman. This was Autumn De Wilde’s directorial debut would you believe it, and I’m thinking of starting a petition for her to direct adaptations of the rest of Jane’s works. She’s has an eye for this sort of thing.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review

Book Review // Frederic and Elfrida by Jane Austen

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Written: Unknown
Genre: Classic Romance
Length: 10 Pages
Source: Own
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Hi Readers

I read all of Jane Austens novels years ago but Juvenilia and other fictional works have always been something I overlooked. Recently I bought a collection of all of her Juvenilia and short or unfinished works and I started it by reading Frederic and Elfrida, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Synopsis

As part of her Juvenilia, this is one of the short stories Jane Austen wrote before she was published and her genius was known. It follows cousins Frederic and Elfrida who become betrothed when their parents determine they should marry. 

Plot

This book is believed to have been written by Jane when she was between the ages of 12 and 15 so it’s really no surprise to see the plot was kind of everywhere. It jumps quite abruptly from one characters story to another and the plot devices she uses are very melodramatic. 

Characters

All very characteristically Austen. There’s the unmarried gentleman and the worrying mother looking for an advantageous match for her daughter. They are a bit more exagerrated and less well developed though. There are times when their abrupt decisions do lack any sense.

Writing

This is a really early example of Jane’s writing but I could see glimpses of a great writer yet to be. In amongst the jumbled story is her quick wit and ironic tone and a sign of what was to come. 

Enjoyment

Jane often wrote short stories and tales to read aloud to a circle of her friends and family for their amusement and I’m sure she got a few laughs out of them with Frederic and Elfrida. I know I certainly found myself laughing, if sometimes in bewilderment more than anything else. I did enjoy it though and I love that it gives us a sense of Jane as a young writer learning her craft. 

Would I Read Again: Yes.
Would I Recommend: For fans of Jane Austen, yes!

Thanks for reading, 
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review: Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

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Release Date: 1997
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Biography
Length: 384 Pages
Source: Library
Goodreads Avg. Rating: 4.00
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Hi Readers

Jane Austen, one of the most celebrated English authors and the first woman (other than the Queen) to make it onto the British £ note. I have read and loved all of her books and I wanted to know more about the writer who never lived to see the lasting success of her lifes works. 

A lot of details about Jane’s life are left unknown largely down to letters not surviving and manuscripts being lost. So in order for Tomalin to have a story to tell she had to make a lot of assumptions and take known accounts from people who lived similarly to Jane in order to get an idea of what she went through.

Tomalin also draws stories from the people around her such as cousins, friends or neighbours. There’s more detail about some of them than there ever was about Jane and although I still found it interesting thanks to Tomalin’s fantastic writing; honestly, it felt like Jane wasn’t the star of her own story.

However, saying that, I did really love this biography and, if you’re a fan of Jane Austens books, I think you’d like it as well. Sure, there isn’t a lot to learn about Jane herself, but I love reading about this time and this society. And I do think it gives a unique understanding to why Jane wrote the stories that she did. 

The small detail this does have of Jane shows how much her situation differed from that of her characters. Jane stuck to themes of romance and happily ever afters, something she never got to truly experiance herself. I think it shows Jane used writing as an escape.

And thank goodness she did, because what would the world be like without Mr Darcy. 

Would I Read Again: Yes
Would I Recommend: Yes. To Jane Austen fans and history lovers. 

Thanks for reading, 
Jess X