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Six degrees of separation, FROM Pride and prejudice TO Northanger Abbey

August 5, 2017
Pride and prejudice book covers

Just a few editions of Pride and Prejudice

I’m only one day back from California and it’s Six Degrees of Separation time againbut I absolutely couldn’t miss this one as our host Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) nominated Jane Austen’s Pride and prejudice as the starting book. It’s a particularly special choice because last month we commemorated the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death. This meme, as you know, requires us players to create a chain of six more books, linking one from the other on whatever basis we like. I don’t think I need tell you that I’ve read Pride and prejudice, which Austen called “my darling child”, but I’ll confirm that, as always, I have also read all the books in my chain. Moreover, because of Austen’s importance to me and to this year, I’m going to try to make every book in this chain relate to her in some way …

Jo Baker, LongbournI’ll start with an example of the sort of book I rarely read – that is, spin-offs and sequels – and nominate Jo Baker’s Longbourn (my review). Longbourn, as the Austen fans among you will know, is the name of Elizabeth Bennet’s family home, and Baker’s novel focuses on the lives of its servants. I read this for my Jane Austen group, and while most of us found the plot rather far-fetched, as is not unusual with this “genre”, we thought Baker’s research into the lives of servants of the time made the book a worthwhile read.

Elizabeth Jolley, The newspaper of Claremont StreetFrom here, I’m going to nominate a book I read long before I started blogging, but which Guy (of His Futile Preoccupations) reviewed recently, Elizabeth Jolley’s The newspaper of Claremont Street (Guy’s review). I could have linked to a Jolley I’ve reviewed here, as one of the reasons I’ve chosen Jolley is because I sometimes call her my antipodean Austen, but I want to nominate Newspaper because she’s a cleaner, in other words, essentially a servant.

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, Watsons, SanditonMy next link is a cheeky one, Jane Austen’s Lady Susan (my review), the book which marks the transition between her juvenilia and mature novels. It’s a cheeky link because the recently widowed Lady Susan, described by another character in the book as “the most accomplished coquette in England”, is poor. She’s desperate to marry well so that she can be kept in the manner to which she had become accustomed, but as the book opens she can’t afford her own house, let alone servants! By the way, this book contains one of those quotes you often find in those “wit and wisdom” or “favourite quotes” of Jane Austen books: “where there is a disposition to dislike a motive will never be wanting”. Love it.

jane Austen, Love and FreindshipI’m going to continue being cheeky, and name another juvenilia work for my next link, Jane Austen’s Love and freindship (sic) (my review). It wouldn’t be cheeky, actually, if I linked it on the juvenilia theme, but, as some of you will know, the recent film adaptation of Lady Susan (starring Kate Beckinsale) was titled (somewhat irritatingly to Austen fans), Love and friendship. What were they thinking? Anyhow, Love and freindship (yes, she spelt it with an “ei” not “ie”) is an epistolary novel written when she was 15 years old. Its humour is broad, but you can see in it the writer she was to become.

Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross RoadAnother epistolary book that I’ve enjoyed, though it’s not a novel, is Helen Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road (my review). This is such a classic now that I’m sure you’ll know it but, just in case you don’t, it comprises the delightful correspondence that took place in the middle of the twentieth century between American writer and bibliophile, Helene Hanff, and Frank Doel of Marks & Co, a London secondhand and antiquarian bookshop. It’s the sort of book that booklovers, like me, adore – and I adore it even more because during the correspondence Hanff fell in love with Pride and prejudice and asked Frank to find her a copy. She wrote:

“You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind for Pride and Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.”

Jane Austen, Northanger AbbeySo now, what to choose for my final book? It has to be one of Austen’s, and I’m going to make it Northanger Abbey (my review), not only because it is 200 years old this year, but because it is the one that contains her famous defence of the novel. I’ve mentioned it so many times before, but I’ll quote it again:

… there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.

How better to end this post than on such a gorgeous description of the novel!

So, I think I’ve done what I set out to do and made this all about Austen, albeit we have dipped our toes briefly in Australia and the USA along the way. I hope it hasn’t been too boring …

Have you read Pride and prejudice (dare you admit you haven’t)? Whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

29 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2017 10:08 am

    Where there any zombies in Longbourn?

  2. August 5, 2017 11:48 am

    LOL I’m passing on this one, but well done you for an Austentacious #6Degrees!
    PS Welcome back:)

    • August 5, 2017 2:10 pm

      Thanks Lisa, on both counts. Expect to see me visiting your blog in the next couple of days as I catch up on my favourite bloggers.

      • August 5, 2017 4:02 pm

        Well, once again you have done us proud with posts coming from you as usual even though you were away, I don’t know how you do it:)

        • August 5, 2017 9:43 pm

          I think you have managed it too when travelling! I did cheat and schedule 2/3 of them before I went away, and only wrote about 3 while I was away. It’s certainly tough to do isn’t it.

        • August 5, 2017 10:16 pm

          It is when the internet is a bit shabby, that’s for sure.

        • August 5, 2017 10:43 pm

          Don’t get me started on that one – drove me batty at times, but I can tell you know all about that!

  3. Meg permalink
    August 5, 2017 3:08 pm

    I do love how six degrees go in all different directions. I too couldn’t help myself, and went from Pride and Prejudice to another Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility. Then to The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke, followed by The Family Man by Catherine Harris. Followed by Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Last one, Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw.

    • August 5, 2017 9:41 pm

      Good one Meg … I don’t know The family man, but you mentioned that recently didn’t you as a good read? (Or am I making that up?)

  4. Lithe lianas permalink
    August 5, 2017 9:53 pm

    For some reason I went from Pride and Prejudice to The importance of Being Earnest – no doubt because of Lady Bracknell v Lady Catherine De Bourgh (whose ‘air was not conciliating’) and Lady Bracknell was hardly conciliating: imagine a meeting and conversation between those two doughty ladies. Do you think they would have listened to each other? Imagine a conversation, too, between their two charges – though I’m not sure Anne De Bourgh was capable of speech as we never hear a word from her in P&P.

  5. August 5, 2017 10:03 pm

    I’ve never heard of 84 Charing Cross Road before, but it sounds like something I would love ❤ This is such a fun post– I might have to join in next time!

    • August 5, 2017 10:43 pm

      Oh do Holly, it really is fun thin king about the links. And, if you haven’t read 84 Charing Cross Rd you are in for a treat (one day). It also makes a good audiobook. I’ve read it a couple of times and heard it. All are good.

  6. August 5, 2017 10:30 pm

    Love,love, love 84 Charing Cross Road so any mention of it instantly gets my attention. It took me a while to warm to Northanger Abbey but I got there.

    • August 5, 2017 10:45 pm

      How could anyone not love 84 Charing Cross Road, eh Karen. As for Northanger Abbey, you are not the only one. My mum and I both love it but in my Jane Austen group there are definitely mixed feelings. (I tell them you can’t be a real fan and have mixed feelings like that – after all, she only wrote 6 mature novels.

      • August 6, 2017 10:55 am

        I didn’t like NA until I saw a 1980’s BBC TV movie of it starring Katharine Schlesinger, Peter Firth & the now late Robert Hardy. The visual helped me to appreciate the humour and gothic silliness that JA had so much fun with here.

        I really must get around to 84 Charing Cross Road.
        I’ve just reread Lady Susan (& managed to include it in my chain too) so that I can now watch Love & Friendship.

        • August 6, 2017 7:19 pm

          I’m glad you’ve come around to NA Brona. I love it. I also think it is the hardest one to adapt to movies. There have been some horrors. And yes, you a bookseller (aren’t you?), should read 84 Charing Cross Road. What ARE you thinking!!

  7. August 6, 2017 1:27 am

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

  8. August 6, 2017 10:33 am

    Longbourne jumped out at me at the library yesterday, so I’ve borrowed it though it might be a week or so until I get to listen to it.

  9. Meg permalink
    August 6, 2017 11:52 am

    Family man is a good read, a bit similar to Anna Krien’s book on the mentality of some football clubs. Winning at all costs; not only on the field but also off the field. I love both the book and film, 84 Charing Cross Road. I am now enjoying another book of letters, Attachment. Written by Alisa Piper and Tony Doherty – all about sins and belief.

    • August 6, 2017 7:21 pm

      That’s right, I knew you’d mentioned it before – and that reference to Anne Krien reminded me!

      I haven’t heard of Attachment at all.

  10. August 7, 2017 12:49 pm

    I’ve had Longbourn in the TBR stack since it was released and have heard good things… But like you, I’m always wary of these types of books (although read Sittenfeld’s Eligible this week and thoroughly enjoyed it).

    • August 7, 2017 1:25 pm

      Longbourn does have things to recommend it Kate, but I agree with you in general about these spin-offs.

  11. August 12, 2017 8:34 am

    I just finished Longbourn and would concur with your comments about it. I just got 84 Charing Cross Road on my radar. I’d best look for it. Here is my My 6-Degrees of Separation

    • August 12, 2017 8:41 am

      Thanks Annette. Glad you agree re Longbourn. I’d be surprised if any reader didn’t like Longbourn. Will check out your post.

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