Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Jane Austen bicentenary: it's been 200 years Janey, and we're *still* reading you.

Hey you.  There's a link to a free Jane Austen-themed download at the end of this post, but first you'll have to put up with me getting a little sentimental ... 

At some point today, maybe after I've left my calling card at some grand house, or tried in vain to find someone to dance with at a ball, or had an intellectually stimulating bickering-fest with a brooding hero, I'm going to sit down for a gossip with my good friend Jane. 

Not that we've met. 

Not that that matters. 

Because, when you read a Jane Austen novel you quickly become her friend. You're right there negotiating the social niceties of early 19th Century England with both her and her bright, observant, witty heroines. You're surrounded by chatter and drama and biting commentary, you're meeting new, alarming or eccentric characters, creating strong friendship bonds with kindred spirits and - after so many false starts and missed connections - you're falling in love. 

And today - July 18th 2017 - marks 200 years since the death of the woman who managed to fit all of that life and entertainment into just 6 timeless novels. (Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Or 7 books if you count Sanditon the unfinished/finished by another author novel that some of us are reading as part of our Jane Austen Summertime Book Club - the #sanditonalong!)

All from a woman who struggled all her career to be taken seriously and who died at 41. (I keep welling-up writing this, I find her story and talent so inspiring. I'm also 41 and I'm trying to string a together a romantic novel so ... little wonder I'm nearly weeping into my keyboard here!)

Just 6 books, published over just 6 years; a tiny sliver in time for an author who has gone on to be read and loved throughout the world for 200 years. 200 years. Good on you Jane. Good on you. 

A little Austen bicentenary reading for you: 

Well, for a start there's those 6 classics to dive into. 
  • I will admit I haven't read them all ... yet. I've got Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility still to go. If you're new to Austen - dig out a copy at a charity shop and give it a whirl; the language and style can be a tricky  pattern for moder readers to slip into ... but it's worth it in the end. I swear I laugh out loud while reading (and not in that fake 'Oh yes, look how much I understand this high-brow literature' way; but genuine LOLs. #truejaneaustenstory
And there's still time to dip into Sanditon along with us this month. 
  • I haven't finished reading it yet, and there's still plenty of time to join in. If you find one of the editions that's completed by another author it's all kinds of interesting to wonder how Austen herself would've finished the story ... and how close - or otherwise - the alternative writer's ending might be to her own!
Plus there's a collection of well known authors discussing their favourite Austen novels...
  • ... which featured in last weekend's Review supplement in The Guardian (featuring a lovely illustration by Romy Blumel) but you can find the articles here online.
(It's OK, yes, I do know that Austen didn't use a typewriter ... I just wanted to sneak this little treasure in in here as I found it for an almost criminal £5.00 in a charity shop this weekend. And I thought you'd like to see it!)

And finally...

Penguin Random House spotted our #sanditonalong and have been in touch to bring the Signature's Essential Guide to Jane Austen' to our attention! 

  • It's a 29 page, free-to-download PDF booklet containing 12 essays on the Austen canon (you just need to supply an email address to gain access to the download, simply follow the link here.
  • And don't worry about it being some dry, academic paper (although, to be fair, I'd probably read some of those too) as it contains such entertaining titles such as '10 Jane Austen Quotations for the Vehemently Single' and - the one that caught my eye first '6 Jane Austen Novels Ranked by their Sexiness'!   
And, while I'll definitely give that piece a fair crack of the whip ... it'll take quite some powers of persuasion (no pun intended) to convince me that there's anything sexier than Mr Knighley in Emma. (Although, I'm willing to admit that might have had something to do with casting Jonny Lee Miller in the 2009 adaptation of Emma  ...).

Quick, someone fetch me a chaise longue ... I'm feeling a little overcome.

If there are other Jane Austen bicentenary related happenings and publications you think I should have thrust under my nose ... then thrust away! 

In fact - feel free to launch into any and all Austen-themed chatter in the comments - or across my social media homes:

The more Austen-themed gossip and stories we share ... the more richly Austenite our commemorations will be! 

But before that ... how about we raise a glass, or a cup of tea in a fine china cup, to our good friend Jane?

To Jane. Cheers!   


Disclosure: This is not in any way a sponsored post. I have not received payment for mentioning anything here, I'm sharing the freebie-reads with you purely for the love of Austen!


  1. I always love remembering that Jane Austen would regularly have been in Lyme Regis at the same time as Mary Anning, albeit moving in very different social circles. Books + science = the very sweetest of spots. :)

    Also, to chip in on your note about language and style, I often think it's easier to get your ear in (literally. Ha!) with audio versions, especially if you can find one with a really good reader. It's maybe the rhythm of the language? I've done P&P and Mansfield Park that way, and you've reminded me it's probably time to seek out a good Sense & Sensibility, too.

    I'm definitely not off to get all dreamy about Jonny Lee Miller now. Nope, nope, nope....


  2. My copy is here and I'm beginning to read :). Saw this in the Guardian and thought you might like it! https://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2017/jul/18/jane-austens-facts-and-figures-in-charts

  3. Was beginning to worry that I'd be the only one who hasn't finished reading it yet - phew, I'm not going to have to make excuses for not finishing my homework after all!


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