For the Janeite who ran out of Austen novels

For the Janeite who ran out of Austen novels

Today’s guest post is by Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas. Please welcome her to MMD! 

There’s a fateful day that comes to every reader who begins Miss Austen’s works: the day you run out of Jane Austen novels.

Whether it’s Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, or Mansfield Park, coming to the end of Austen’s works is a sad experience if you’ve fallen in love with her fascinating heroines, masterful plots, and witty style. But there’s hope! I recently was introduced to an author who might console the downcast Janeite: Elizabeth Gaskell.

Called “Mrs. Gaskell” by her Victorian contemporaries, Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels are full of wit, romance, and lovable communities. And like Austen, Gaskell illuminates the subtleties of her character’s virtues and flaws so that you know them inside and out. What’s not to love?

But the two authors are not literary twins. Gaskell includes scenes in which only male characters are present–something Austen only attempts once briefly in Mansfield Park. I’ve always loved that Austen avoids men-only dialogue because it adds so much mystery (what is Mr. Darcy thinking about?!), but it’s fun to have a window into Gaskell’s leading men’s minds and conversation. Gaskell also includes more fleshed-out characters from the lower classes than Austen does and includes themes about social causes.

Allow me to introduce you to some of Mrs. Gaskell’s works. (A few of her novels have been adapted to film in recent years, so it’s a great time to read her novels and then treat yourself to a great miniseries!)

North and South

This would be the Pride & Prejudice of Gaskell’s novels: Margaret Hale, a strong, opinionated young woman from the South of England, misjudges John Thornton, a factory owner in the North, due to differences of temperament and local culture. The 2004 miniseries adaption is also great and Richard Armitage who plays Thornton is totally swoon-worthy.

Cranford

More like vignettes of small town life than a full-fledged novel, Cranford is full of the most endearing characters. But I have to admit that I actually like the miniseries more than the book (don’t tar and feather me!). Anything with Judi Dench and Michael Gambon has to be good, right?

Wives and Daughters

This is by far my favorite of Gaskell’s. The heroine, Molly Gibson, is as vibrant and lovable as any of Austen’s heroines (and perhaps more than some!). There’s plenty of mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters. But beware! Gaskell died before she could write the very end, although she did tell someone what she had in mind. In order to have some closure, be sure to have the fantastic film on hand. (It’s adapted by Andrew Davies who wrote the screenplay for the epic Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice and many of the other Austen films!)

If you’re pining for a good read after exhausting all of Austen’s books, give Gaskell a try. (Most of the films are on Netflix, or stream for free with Amazon Prime. If you’re not a member, start a free trial here.) And if you just can’t bear to leave the world of Austen behind, try out Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, author of Children of Men. It’s a whodunnit involving the characters of P&P and Austen fans either love it or hate it. Happy reading, Janeites!

Do you have any book (or film!) recommendations for Austen aficionados? 

(Note: all of the Austen and Gaskell ebooks mentioned above are available for free right now on Amazon.)

Haley Stewart is a bookish Catholic wife and mama of three littles  living in the deep south on her little urban homestead. When she gets a moment to herself she loves to read Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, L.M. Montgomery, or Flannery O’Connor with a cup of coffee in hand. Haley muses about cultivating a Catholic family through literature, liturgical living, and urban homesteading at her blog Carrots for Michaelmas

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78 comments

  1. MissPeet says:

    Yes, Elizabeth Gaskell is fantastic! She is like the perfect cross between Austen and Dickens – the best of both worlds. I just wish she had written more than 6 books 😢 Woe to the poor soul who not only finds themselves out of new Austen books to read, but also Gaskell. Or film adaptations for that matter…

  2. Mary says:

    GREAT post! I’m very new to classics but I read P&P and N&S. I thought Mr. Darcy would always be the one, but then Mr. Thornton showed up. I really wish there were more romance novels like these two. Clean, smart, witty, capturing the past with so much commentary, and a delightful hero to root for.
    I have Jane Eyre, 2 Heyer books and Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series but I’m afraid I will be disappointed after I finish those and realize there are no other books like them so I haven’t read them yet. If anyone has read anything similar to North and South or Pride and Prejudice, I really, really, would love to know about it! 😀 I love that tension filled, love-hate relationship these two stories had amidst the commentary on social customs back then.

  3. Kim says:

    I am excited to have found your blog. I read my JA novels one a year along with Gaskell’s Cranford each Christmas.

    Georgette Heyer is a favorite and I have over 30 of her books.
    My favorites are Venetia, The Unknown Ajax, and Black Sheep. The last is set in Bath. Also, an excellent nonfiction read is Georgetter Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.

  4. Sarah oetken says:

    I just finished reading Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas and the novel definitely has characteristics of Darcy and Lizzie. There is pride and prejudice but I didn’t realize this til I read the last chapter. An amazing read

  5. Sara says:

    Emily Eden’s The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House are pretty natural followers of Austen (both in time period written and subject and style!)

  6. Rachael says:

    If you like a little magic with your Austen, Scorer and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermere, The Glamorist Histories (starting with Shades of Milk and Honey) by Mary Robinette Kowalski and Jonathan Strange Strange and Mr.Norrell are pretty fantastic. In the cases of these last two, they also address the Nepoleanic wars and family relationships as well as romantic ones.

  7. Rachael says:

    If you like a little magic with your Austen, Scorer and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermere, The Glamorist Histories (starting with Shades of Milk and Honey) by Mary Robinette Kowal and Jonathan Strange Strange and Mr.Norrell are pretty fantastic. In the cases of these last two, they also address the Nepoleanic wars and family relationships as well as romantic ones.

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