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!)
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.
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?
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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