Tag Archives: Chawton House

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Nathaniel Hawthorne once said the following:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 

Reading Jane Austen is deliciously easy. Her books are full of characters that seem as real as you or I.

As any writer will tell you, writing is not as easy as it seems. The work and effort that is required feels nearly impossible to accomplish sometimes.

Jane came from an era in which women pursuing any career was frowned on. Her primary responsibility was that of a wife and mother. Initially publishing her books under the pseudonym of “A Lady”, public recognition of her as an author came later on.

One of the things I have learned as a writer is that sometimes you sometimes need to put your work away for a while. Recently, I have been going back to pieces that have been sitting on my hard drive. Delving back into those particular pieces (with the help of a handful of keen eyed fellow writers), I have been working on them with a level of excitement and energy I have not felt in a long time.

Her first three completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice were initially written when Austen was still a young woman. Like any budding author, she eagerly sent out her manuscripts to publishers, hoping for an eventual publication. The response was a decided no.

The next few years were an emotional roller coaster for Austen. After her father’s retirement and subsequent passing, Jane, her sister, and her mother moved frequently. It was only after finding a permanent home in Chawton House did she had the space and comfort that she needed to write again.

Rewriting the books of her youth and writing three new ones (Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion), she finally became the writer she had always wanted to be.

She didn’t know it, but she is one of the writers who paved the way for so many of us. As both the mother of the modern novel and a female novelist, she continues to delight readers and inspire fellow writers who want to follow in her giant footsteps.

Happy Birthday Jane, wherever you are.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl Book Review

If one were to ask readers who their favorite character is, I would suspect that Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice would rank near the top of the list.

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd, was released earlier this year. The fourth book in a series of five Jane Austen inspired anthologies, this edition contains a series of short stories inspired by Austen’s most famous heroine.

Like it’s predecessors, I loved this book. I could feel the presence of Austen’s voice and point of view as a writer, which in the world of fanfiction, is not always present. Balancing Austen’s original narrative and their vision of Elizabeth Bennet, the stories reminded me of why I continue to adore the novels of Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

P.S. The royalties from these anthologies go directly to Chawton House. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks to Jane Austen and to those who are keeping her legacy going.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

The Jane Austen Society Book Review

Today, Jane Austen is everywhere. 200 years after her passing, she is one of those authors who is as popular as an author whose book is on the New York Times Best Seller list.

But it was not always this way. It is thanks to the original members of the Jane Austen Society that Jane Austen is alive and well in our culture.

Coming out next Spring, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner tells the story of the founding of the Jane Austen Society. Just after World War II, Chawton, the village where Austen wrote and/or revised her six novels is a sleepy little English town. There is a trickle of visitors to Chawton House, the ancestral home of Jane’s older brother, Edward Austen Knight, but not enough to call it a tourist attraction.

Through their love of their local celebrity, the original members of the Jane Austen Society are able to preserve the memory of Austen’s name and work for generations to come.

I really liked this book. Though the characters are fiction, they embody why Jane Austen is still one of the most popular authors today. The characters in this book are all different, but what brings them together is the love of Austen and the beloved fictional worlds that she created.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Jane Austen

Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage Book Review

To be related to someone famous is both a blessing and a curse. One on hand, it opens doors. But on the other hand, there is a certain expectation because of one’s famous relation.

Caroline Jane Knight is the fifth great-grandniece of Jane Austen. She is the last descendant of the Austen/Knight family (she is directly descended from Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s brother who was adopted by wealthy and childless cousins)  to reside in Chawton, the Knight family residence for centuries. In her new book, Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage, Caroline writes about what it was like to grow up in the home and the shadow of one of the world’s most respected authors.

Currently residing in Australia, Ms. Knight was not always comfortable with her heritage. But over time, she grew to accept and love that she comes from the Austen family.

I absolutely recommend it.

P.S. I recommend that you purchase the book if you can. For every book that is purchased, a small portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen