As some of you may know, in conjunction with the Jones Library, Amherst, I run the Jane Austen’s Regency World book club. We meet six to seven times a year starting each February. We have just finished the fourth year. Each year, we read one of Jane Austen’s novels, then we read books by other authors that relate to the Jane Austen work.
This year we read Sense and Sensibility. I decided to structure the other readings around the theme of sisters. The bond between Eleanor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility is strong and complex. I wanted to look at other authors’ explorations of relationships between sisters. I have a sister and many participants in the club do as well.
For the final book of the year, we read Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson. It was not great. I have read several modern retellings of Jane Austen and most of them have not been great. Jane Austen’s novels are both timeless and dated. Her tremendous skill as an observer of human nature and her great writing make the books readable after over two hundred years. The setting of her books in the English countryside, Bath, and London, are specific to the time she was writing, in the late 18th and early 19th century. It is this aspect of Austin’s writing that is hard to update. Ladies of the House transplants the story to modern day scandal ridden Washington DC.
My favorite adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels are those that take an aspect of the book to tell a different story. Longbourn by Jo Baker looks at the servants in Pride and Prejudice. The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley looks at Charlotte Lucas’ marriage to Mr. Collins. Both are particularly good books with original, new interpretations of Pride and Prejudice.
For the seventh meaning of the book club, on January 19th, we will discuss the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. It is one of my favorite movie adaptations of a Jane Austen novel. Although Thompson is almost twice as old as Eleanor is in the book, the movie is a beautiful, heartfelt telling of the story. Next year, we are reading Emma and the other books all have matchmaking in the plot. We will also have a seventh meeting this coming year to discuss Clueless, another one of my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations.
If you are interested in what we have read in the past, what we are reading this year, or you want to attend the meetings which are on Zoom, please message me.
Happy New Year!