Book Review | Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

November 19th, 2021

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

Synopsis

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?

My Thoughts

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 Review | Persuasion by Jane Austen

October 4th, 2021

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

Synopsis

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’

My Thoughts

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 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 Review | Emma by Jane Austen

Reviews

Published: 1815 by John Murray

Genre: Classic

Themes: Romance, Georgian Society

Length: 474 Pages

Source: Own

My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Hi Readers!

Emma is one of my all time favourite books by Austen. This is probably my 3rd time reading it and I still enjoyed every second of it. Emma is a book filled with comedy and character growth in the height of Georgian society.

Plot

Emma likes to think of herself as a matchmaker. When her ambition and wild imagination takes over and she tries to match her new friend Harriet to someone from a higher social status things start to go a little wrong.

Characters

Emma is a fantastic character to read about. She’s intelligent and kind-hearted, but can be a little misguided and self-possessed which puts herself into some tricky situations.

It’s said that Austen predicted Emma would be ‘a character whom no one but me will much like,’ and while I’ve seen that true for some readers, this definitely wasn’t for me. I love seeing her grow in self-awareness throughout the novel and she becomes much more likeable because of it.

Writing

As funny and ironic as ever. But I have to say that this one is quite lengthy and definitely feels. While her descriptions of the characters are hilariously brutal, they do drag a bit.

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”

Emma

Would I Read Again? Yes
Would I Recommend? Yes!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

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 | Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

International Women's Day Reading Recommendations (5)

Release Date: October 1811
Genre: Classic
Length: 365 Pages
Source: Own
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Synopsis:
This book follows the Dashwood sisters and their mother who are left penniless and dependant on the men in their family after the death of their husband and father.

Hi Readers

First written as an epistiology called Elinor and Marianne, after edits and rewrites Sense & Sensibility was to become Jane’s first published novel, (although anonymously). Although it was her first written book it’s a very accomplished story with complex characters, themes that resonated with her time period (and some still to this day) and a good amount of entertaining drama.

Plot

This is one of the more twisty Jane Austen novels. I’ve read this before but I’d forgotten just how much drama there is and I loved it! It follows the same formula as many of Jane’s other works. It’s about coming-of-age, romance, money (or lack of) and family.

Characters

Jane Austen’s characters are always full of personality and that’s especially true in Sense & Sensibility. They’re all so charming and fun to read about and I found myself really routing for the Dashwood sisters.

Sense & Sensibility has my favourite Jane Austen villain in it as they’re much more developed and their reasonings are well explained and understood.

My only criticism would be the character of Edward Ferrars. He’s not really in it very much and when he is in a scene he just doesn’t have that much of a presence. I also would have liked more interaction between Marianne and Colonal Brandon.

Writing

I just love Jane Austen’s style. It’s so full of dramatic irony and picking apart the society of the time. It’s funny and so cosy to curl up with.

Themes

Sense & Sensibility – The title is referring to the two emotions. Sense referring to the more mature Elinor and Sensibility referring to the younger Marianne. She explores how they contrast with one another and how you really need both in a relationship for it to work.

Economics – Like with a lot of Jane’s novels this also deals with a family of women whose lives are being ulterred because of the law that women can not inherit from their relatives. This was a prospect Jane herself had to deal with and highlights the disadvantages women had in her time.

Marriage – Again, similar to Jane’s other works this deals heavily with marriage. It links into the economic theme as in Jane’s time marriage was largely about money and this book, again like her others, has characters who can’t marry for lack of money, and marry purely for the financial gain.

Favourite Quote

‘A woman of seven-and-twenty,’ said Marianne, after pausing for a moment, ‘can never hope to feel or inspire affection again.’

– Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review // Frederic and Elfrida by Jane Austen

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

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. 

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.

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 Review // The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

A Heart So Fierce & Broken by Brigid Kimmerer (1)
  • Release Date: 9th January 2020
  • Publisher: Mantle
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Length: 655 Pages
  • Source: Netgalley ARC in Exchange for Honest Review
  • My Rating: ⭐ ⭐

What if Mary Bennet, the quiet, overlooked and sometimes mocked younger sister of the Pride and Prejudice heroine Elizabeth Bennet, took a different path than the one Jane Austen wrote for her. The Other Bennet Sister explores and adds depth to a character known to readers since 1813.

 Hi Readers

I was so excited for this book because the premise just hooked me. I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen since I was 14 and Pride and Prejudice is my favourite. The Other Bennet Sister seemed like a new and interesting take on a well known and beloved story. However, despite how perfect it sounds, I ended up feeling quite underwhelmed by it.

Characters

It got to around 100 pages when I realised there was a reason why Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth and not Mary. Unfortunately Hadlow didn’t do anything to make Mary more fun or interesting to read. In fact, I kind of disliked her. However I did enjoy her passion for reading and determination to learn despite her mothers protests.

“She had a small bookcase in which stood the dozen or so books which belonged to her. They were so familiar that she could recite whole passages from them by heart; nevertheless it please her to open them and look again at the well remembered words. She could not recall a time when reading had not been both a comfort and a refuge.”

Writing

The writing was beautiful and the most enjoyable thing of this book. The quote above is just one example of the many beautiful lines about books and reading. Hadlow has a very similar style to Austen so it felt like it could have been written by Jane Austen herself. Mary’s overall plot is also very similar to that of all of Jane Austen’s heroines.

Engagement

This book felt too long and really lost my interest by the end of it. There’s a large section that recounts Pride & Prejudice and, whilst I appreciate it gives us a new perspective of it, it does largely read as a recap. It felt unnecessary and made this long book drag.

Enjoyment

Unfortunately, as you’ve probably seen from my star rating, my overall enjoyment of this book was low. I was so excited to get a better understanding of Mary but, in the end, I just found this book so dull.

Would I Read Again: I might give it another go one day. Possibly. I just really want to like it!
Would I Recommend: Right now, no.

Thanks for reading,

Jess X

Ranking Jane Austen’s Novels From Favourite to Least Favourite

Ho, ho, ho! Welcome to Blogmas Day 16!

Today is Jane Austens 244th birthday! To honour her I thought I would rank her novels from my personal favourite to my least favourite.

To keep things simple I’m only going to rank her novel length completed works. It was a while ago since I read some of these and they are in dire need of a reread, but I have a general idea of what should go where.

pink and gray watercolor flower graphics-6

Six – Mansfield Park

Whilst at number six I do still love this book. It’s about a girl from a poor background who is given the opportunity to go and live in a stately home. I feel like Jane took a lot of inspiration from her own life for this book as throughout her life she relied on friends and family members who had more money than she did. I think in the end though I find that the characters in this book didn’t stand out to me.

Five – Persuasion

To be honest I have an equal amount of love for the books between number 6 and number 1. This one is probably here because I remember it the least but according to others it’s her most accomplished novel. I remember really liking the main character beause she was a lot more developed than some of Jane’s others and was much more aware of her surroundings. 

Four – Northanger Abbey

This is book-lover heaven! It’s a parody of gothic-fiction and is packed full with characters who love books. This is another one I found quite amusing with it’s melodrama and wit. 

Three – Sense & Sensibility

This has two protagonists which means double the drama, and double the romance. I love the sisterly love in this but I also love that this book has no shortage of chilvalrous, dashing, eligible bachelors. 

Two – Emma

I feel like this is quite a controversial book, or character. You either love or hate this book. For me, I hate Emma, but I loved reading about her. This is by far Janes funniest work and I can not wait for the comedic remake thats coming out next year. 

One – Pride and Prejudice

I know this is kind of an obvious one, but I’d be lying if I didn’t choose this as my number one. I read this for the first time when I was 14 and it was the first adult classic I’d ever read and it made me fall in love with the genre. I owe this book a lot and is the Jane Austen book I revisit the most. 

So, what would you rank as your favourite Jane Austen novel?

Thanks for reading, 

Jess X

Book Review: Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

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