Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: Ten Books Every X Should Read (up to you! Examples: every history nerd, memoir lover, ballet lover, feminist, college student, etc etc.)

For my topic of the day I've decided to go with Top Ten Books Every Jane Austen Fan Should Read. I'm a huge fan of Austen which should come as absolutely no surprise to my regular readers. I adore Austen's works because of her wonderful prose, her fantastic characters, her witty comedy, her profound social commentary and her keen insights into human nature, her themes, and her lovely romances.

There is of course a massive amount of Jane Austen fanfiction type novels out there - male perspective books, sequels, prequels, attempts to complete the unfinished works, retellings, etc - but none of the books that I've chosen for today fit into that category. They're all just books that I feel have an Austen-esque tone or spirit about them which makes me think that my fellow Jane Austen fans would also enjoy them :)

1. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. I'm not really a huge fan of Shakespeare's comedies and usually much prefer his tragedies but Much Ado About Nothing is a big exception to that. It's a wonderfully witty and laugh out loud funny play and the romance between Beatrice and Benedick in it is very similar to the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice :) Since Much Ado About Nothing is a play there are a number of different ways in which you could tackle the story. My first experience with Much Ado was through reading the text but if you're not into reading plays you could try to find out if there's a local theatrical production of it going on near you or check out one of its adaptations. Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon have both directed screen adaptations of this play but my personal favourite takes on it are the 2011 Josie Rourke stage production (which starred David Tennant and Catherine Tate and is available to watch on the Digital Theatre website) and the web series adaptation Nothing Much To Do which is set in modern-day New Zealand. I highly recommend them both!

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is another story that's very reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice and is set in a thinly fictionalised Manchester during the Victorian era/Industrial Revolution. North and South is a darker, grittier read than Pride and Prejudice with a heavy focus on the socio-economic issues of the time and yet the writing isn't at all dry and heavy-handed in the way that Gaskell's editor Charles Dickens could sometimes be (it was Dickens who came up with the title for this book by the way). Also the love story between Margaret Hale and John Thornton in this book is intensely romantic and beautiful ♥. The 2004 BBC miniseries of this book (which starred Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage) is one of my favourite literary adaptations ever so of course I would strongly recommend watching that as well and - even though I haven't actually read it for myself yet - I know a lot of readers out feel that Gaskell's other novel Wives and Daughters is very reminiscent of Mansfield Park so I'd also recommend reading that book.

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. A Tolstoy book might not seem like an obvious choice to put in a "Jane Austen Book Recommendations List" but Anna Karenina is a brilliant novel with themes that you'll find in any of Jane Austen's stories: class, morality, family obligations, individual desire vs propriety, city life vs countryside life... It's all there! Just Russian.

4. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. E.M. Forster was a huge Janeite and you can definitely tell in his romantic coming-of-age novel A Room with a View. The writing in it is hilariously witty and full of social satire, its characters are deeply flawed and yet are oddly loveable and charming, and the whole atmosphere of this book in general is just very Jane Austen-like. And as a big bonus point the book is partly set in Florence, Italy too!

5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I've read three of Edith Wharton's works so far and I tend to think of her as being Jane Austen's more cynical American cousin: Wharton's writing has the witty, biting social commentary that you'll find in any of Austen's novels but her characters don't get the unequivocally happy endings that Austen's characters get. Her novels are much more bittersweet. My favourite of Edith Wharton's works is The Age of Innocence - a deeply haunting and powerful novel with beautifully evocative descriptions of Gilded Age New York.

6. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. LM. Montgomery is best known for her Anne of Green Gables series but my favourite work of hers is her standalone novel The Blue Castle. It features a lonely "spinster-ish" heroine who manages to overcome her insecurities and self-doubt to carve out a new identity for herself, an utterly beautiful romance, and stunning descriptions of the Canadian wilderness. This book reminds me very much of Persuasion due to its mature feel and its theme of second chances :)

7. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Cold Comfort Farm is a hilariously funny book - one of the funniest that I've ever read - and I've been meaning to re-read it for a while now. Hopefully I'll be able to get around to it later on in the year... Anyway the book's heroine Flora Poste shares the meddling tendencies of Austen's Emma Woodhouse but wants to write a book "as good as Persuasion with a modern setting"- and the novel is a genre parody of the melodramatic rural-set works that were popular at the time (think D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy) so in that sense it reminds me very much of Northanger Abbey.

8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. This book is a romantic comedy-of-manners novel that takes place between World Wars I and II and was rescued from obscurity when it got republished by Persephone Classics several years ago. Although there are one or two problematic elements in this novel - due to some of its characters voicing now un-PC sentiments - it's still very lovely, warm and charming. The film adaptation starring Frances McDormand, Amy Adams and Lee Pace is also a delight :)

9. Venetia by Georgette Heyer. I didn't start reading Georgette Heyer until 2013 but for years I'd been seeing her Regency romance novels getting recommended time and time again in various Jane Austen forums and Facebook fan pages and book blogs. To be honest I tend to find Heyer's books pretty hit-and-miss but when she's at her best her books are a lot of fun and make for great comfort reads. My personal favourite Heyer novel is Venetia. I've found it to be the most romantic and touching out of the dozen or so Heyer novels that I've read so far but it's still extremely funny and I love the characters of Venetia and Aubrey Lanyon and Lord Damerel. And as a bonus point there's an audiobook version of it read by Richard Armitage! :) Having said that if you're completely new to Heyer, Cotillion and The Talisman Ring are also favourites of mine and would probably make for better introductions to her oeuvre.

10. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. If you're a Jane Austen fan who also loves fantasy then this book is an absolute must-read! To give a basic summary, the book is set in a painstakingly detailed Regency AU in which the north of England used to be ruled by a mysterious and powerful magician called the Raven King who then vanished and took all of English magic with him. For centuries magic has only been studied by theoretical scholars but this completely changes when two practical magicians finally emerge who then begin to use their magic in the war against Napoleon. JS & MN is an incredible novel: it's beautifully-written and haunting but with an Austen-like wit, the worldbuilding is outstanding, the characters are deeply complex and engaging, and the story is full of fairies and magic and grandeur :)

So what are the books that you would consider to be must-reads for Jane Austen fans? :)


Deanna said...

I'm not a huge Austen fan, but I recently read That Girl Darcy by James Ramos and it was a really fun take on it.

My TTT: http://www.anovelglimpse.com/2016/04/12/top-ten-tuesday-twenty-books-every-reader-new-to-the-new-adult-genre-should-read/

AJ Sterkel said...

Great list. I like the theme you picked. I’ve read a few of these, and a lot of Jane Austen books.

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Lianne @ eclectictales.com said...

Hehe, I had fun nodding my head as I read your list as I totally agree that they would make for great reads for Jane Austen fans! The only title I haven't read was Cold Comfort Farm which I must rectify xD Great list :)


Carrie said...
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Carrie said...

I really do need to read Miss Pettigrew! My TTT

Hamlette said...

Good list! Let's see, I've read #s 1, 2, 4, 6, and a I started #10 but then had a baby and never finished it. Some day! I'd really like to read many of these others.

I would also recommend What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, which is non-fiction but Very Readable, and gives you lots of good info that helps make little details in Austen's works (and Dickens', I suppose) make more sense.

Hannah said...

Deanna - Hi! And thanks for the book recommendation!

AJ Sterkel - Thank you very much! And thanks for visiting!

Lianne - Thanks again! I'm glad to hear that you had fun reading this one and I think you'd really enjoy 'Cold Comfort Farm!' It's delightfully zany! :)

Carrie - 'Miss Pettigrew' is lovely, both the book and the film. I hope you'll enjoy them!

Hamlette - Thanks! And 'What Jane Austen Ate and What Charles Dickens Knew' is now on my TBR list :)