New non-fiction: Wealth or Poverty: Jane Austen’s Novels Explored by Stephen Mahony

9780719814396Wealth or Poverty: Jane Austen’s Novels Explored

Money is significant in Jane Austen’s novels. Her characters worry about it, scheme for it and, of course, spend it. Money is not simply a way of placing people: it propels plots, adds drama and tells us much about an individual’s nature and morals.

Taking the novels as his starting point, Stephen Mahony looks at the wealth and social standing of Austen’s characters in relation to the economic background of the day, giving us real insight into their aspirations and motivations. What did a servant earn? Just how poor was Miss Bates? What were the pay and conditions of a midshipman like William Price? What would it cost to house, clothe and feed the entire Bennet family? And how much would Elizabeth Bennet need to live comfortably if she hadn’t married Darcy?

The result is a revealing account of Austen, her characters and the England in which they lived.

Stephen Mahony read Modern History at Oxford before a thirty-year career in finance.  Besides writing six books on financial subjects, he has written for the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society (UK) and for Regency World magazine. He lives in Dorset.

Buy your copy of Wealth or Poverty: Jane Austen’s Novels Explored here.

Folly over passion: what Jane Austen really wrote about

by Beth Andrews

Jane Austen

Like her immortal heroine, Fanny Price, Jane Austen was a spectator of the foibles of ordinary human existence, rather than a participant. Despite the efforts of modern mythmakers, there seems little evidence that she ever fell deeply in love with anyone. This is reflected in her generally cool, detached tone, which both fascinates and repels readers, who often forget that her novels are satires – arguably the greatest of the nineteenth century.

Contemporary reinterpretations of her work seem inspired by a desire to inject something many readers feel is missing from the original: romance. This completely overturns Jane’s intention of deflating romantic pretensions. She took marriage seriously, but romantic love she considered a comic mixture of self-indulgence and delusion. She advised her niece not to marry “without affection,” for the very sensible reason that affection tends to last, while passion – which is now almost universally accepted as the only legitimate foundation for marriage – rarely does. One early critic commented on her ideal of “intelligent love,” and Jane’s six novels consistently warn that, without the guidance of the head, the heart is bound to go astray. Some may call her modified Christian Platonism outmoded, but after Victorian excess and postmodern posturing, I find it refreshing, exhilarating, and eminently sane.

When rewriting Love and Freindship, I chose to celebrate and expand upon Jane’s joyful anti-romanticism, even making fun of the iconic BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Having written both regency romance and cozy mysteries, I think Jane would find the latter healthier and more respectable. After all, there are many “crimes of passion,” but whoever heard of a murder, for instance, being committed in a “frenzy of reason”?

Women discussing potential matches at a ball in Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995)

Curiously, I think that the lack of sex in her books is one of Jane’s greatest strengths, and one reason for her continuing appeal. Whether a result of ignorance or deliberate choice, the fact that she eschews any explicit physical details – even so much as a kiss – is both unusual and intriguing. By contrast, writers like D. H. Lawrence now seem dated and somewhat facetious, along with their pseudo-Freudian philosophy; and Lady Chatterley’s exploits are about as exciting as a Sunday school picnic, compared with the graphic sexual content of the average Harlequin romance novel. This kind of writing is often more concerned with envelope-pushing than with getting to the real meat of plot and character development. Jane Austen’s work, on the other hand, is like a “lean, mean, narrative machine,” in which extraneous fatty tissue (sexual details, minute physical descriptions) are cut to the bone. The resulting creation is so polished in its presentation that it is easy to miss the wisdom beneath the wit.

Whatever one’s views, Jane Austen provides enough “follies and nonsense” to amuse readers, infuriate critics, and inspire writers for generations to come. The struggle between heart and head will remain relevant as long as humans possess both, and the choices made by Jane’s characters are of universal interest. The ironic zest with which she handles her subject matter will always appeal to writers who prefer to “jest at scars” rather than to weep over wounds.

What We’re Reading in… March

psycho film psycho

Back in 1959, Robert Hale published Bloch’s psychological thriller Psycho, which was quickly snapped up by Alfred Hitchcock and made into a film the following year.


What are our favourite book-to-film stories at Robert Hale? 

 

Sarah, Marketing and Publicity Manager:
My favourite is Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Trumabreakfast at tiffanys filmn Capote (Penguin Classics). The first half of the film follows the book very closely, albeit set in a different decade, and much of the early dialogue is almost word-for-word, but of course the film was given an ending much better suited to Hollywood audiences than that in the book.
TRUMAN_CAPOTE_Breakfast_at_Tiffanys_2009
The film certainly deserves its spot among the classics, but it’s a shame that the book is often overlooked. Truman Capote’s writing is so captivating, and the story is the ideal anti-fairytale for twentieth-century American life. And who doesn’t identify just a little with Holly Golightly’s desire for self-reinvention?

 

 

 

Esther, Editorial Controller:
They always say the book is better than the film, and in this case it is true. Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent’s Tail) somehow seems far more shocking in print; Eva’s narrative in the form of letters to her estrangkevin filmed husband, post Kevin’s organised mass-shooting at his school, shows how she’s suffering as a consequence of his actions. The fact that she jumps back in time through her letters, chronicling Kevin’s sixteen year existence, suggests she’s been suffering the entire time. Straight from the letters, there are unknown truths, long-hidden secrets and twists.kevin book

The film itself, compared to the book, seemed quite tame. With books, we imagine how the action plays out but when it comes to the film, it’s often very different. While the adaptation stays relatively faithful to the book, the pace was slow, it had an eerie quietness to it and the most brutal scenes felt a bit anti-climactic. Lynne Ramsay (director) probably was right to censor most of it; after all, it is horrendous to talk about.

 

 

Gill, Managing Director:
I suppose like all avid readers, film adaptations of much loved books are often a disappointment. The adaptations of Jane Austen’s books are for the most part no exception, but one film in particular is very well done. 

Persuasion (Vintage Classics) waspersuasion-1995 produced for television in the first instance by the BBC and then put on general release. Although it differs from the book in subtle respects, the performance of Amanda Root as Anne Elliot has never been bettered, and she inhabits the character completely. I fell out with the casting of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth but then, every Janeite has their own vision of what their heroes should look like, but he has, over time, also persuaded me of his claim to the role.

The book is my favourite Austen and read every year or so in the original edition my aunt gave me as a girl. Pride and Prejudice had me hooked from the age of nine (again as persuasiona result of a gift from my prescient aunt) but Persuasion is the ‘adult’ Austen to which I turn when in need of comfort in both book and on film.

Hale’s series on Jane Austen continues her wonderful legacy. Adding to great contributions by Maggie Lane and Hazel Jones on ageing and travel in Austen’s books, Hale are publishing a new book by Stephen Mahoney in the autumn on wealth and poverty.

 


Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:
Ifight club book think Fight Club (Vintage) is a good example Fight-ClubMovie-Still2CRof a
book-to-film success story. Both book and film hold their own, but also complement one another. While it’s a lot to do with great script and actors, I think the subject matter – of crazy insomniacs and manic addictions – helps out too.
 The story is a fragmented, schizophrenic narrative which moves all over the place and works really well in book or film setting.

half yellow sunOn the other hand, one of my favourite books, Half of a Yellow Sun by  (4th Estate), was recently adapted until a film. Even though the two leads – Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton – are very good actors and the author has endorsed the project, I’ve resisted going to see it just in case it disappoints. I think there are some books for each person where its better to preserve the characters as you imagined them when reading the story.


New non-fiction: Jane Austen’s Journeys by Hazel Jones

9780719807503Jane Austen lived in an exciting age for travel.  Improvements to roads and carriages meant that more people than ever were taking journeys for pleasure, to view picturesque scenery, to visit a spa town or the seaside, or to stay with distant relations.

The Austen family were very much part of this trend, and Jane was familiar with most of the counties of southern England, from Kent in the east to Devon in the west, and as far north as Staffordshire. With one exception, all of her heroines leave home at some point in their story to travel to a different part of the country and, even in Emma, where the heroine remains in her village, other characters travel about in quest of health, amusement or a marriage partner.

Hazel Jones provides the context for this rage for travel, drawing on a wide range of archives and contemporary printed material, as well as on Jane Austen’s own letters and novels.  From maps to inns, from travelling dress to turnpikes, every detail is brought vividly before the reader’s eyes.

Hazel Jones

Hazel Jones has published articles in Sensibilities, the journal of the Jane Austen society of Australia, and Regency World magazine. The author of two previous books about Jane Austen, Hazel has also lectured to audiences in the UK, Australia, the Netherlands and the USA. Since 1995, she has delivered courses on Jane Austen’s life, times, letters and fiction at adult residential centres in England and in 2009 she became a Pride & Prejudice Tours guide. She is currently membership secretary of the South West branch of the Jane Austen Society.

Buy your copy of Jane Austen’s Journeys here

You may also be interested in Growing Older with Jane Austen by Maggie Lane and Love and Freindship (sic): And Other Delusions by Paul Andrews.

New fiction: Love and Freindship (sic): And Other Delusions by Beth Andrews

9780719813856Love and Freindship was written when Jane Austen was just 14, and foreshadows the conflict between moral obligation and individual desire which animates Austen’s mature comedic efforts such as Sense and Sensibility. Now updated in this sparkling satire by Beth Andrews, the story follows Isabel and her daughter Marianne when they attend the theatre in Bury St Edmunds and encounter Isabel’s old friend, Laura Lindsay, who gives her journal to Marianne to read. It is a revelation to the younger woman as she reads of one hilarious madcap romantic escapade after another.

There is love at first sight, marriage the same day, the befriending of another young woman as romantic as Laura herself, exaggerated sentiment and complete disregard for the feelings of others. Havoc inevitably ensues. This is Jane Austen retold but retaining her huge capacity for laughter and enjoyment of the absurd. The book includes the Jane Austen’s version of Love and Freindship
– complete with uncorrected spelling.

Love and Freindship is published on October 31st. Author Beth Andrews discusses how she updated Austen’s original text:

“Re-writing Jane Austen seems a bit like attempting ‘to gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet.’  Still, fools and writers (surely members of the same species) tend to rush in where angels would hesitate to set foot.  The variations on Pride and Prejudice, and Austen’s five other adult novels, are Legion.  Nobody seemed to think that Love and Freindship was worthy of similar mistreatment, but I was determined to rectify this glaring omission.

Although the heroine of this novella is unique in the Austen canon, in that she has learned absolutely nothing at the end of her story, I felt that even a third-rate novelist like myself could improve things by introducing a sub-plot in which a minor character does actually learn a thing or two.  I also recklessly abandoned the creaky epistolary style of the original, threw in references to other Austen works and even a mild joke borrowed from one of my own books, added a host of anachronisms, and committed various other atrocities such as inventing a very different ending.   The kitchen sink may be missing, but not much else.

At this point, I considered my work accomplished.  It may lack the classic melodrama of Jane Eyrehead, with its delectable madwoman in the attic (though Laura might well have evolved into such a character); nor is it explicit enough to be mistaken for a more modern masterpiece like 500 Shades of Puce.  However, in its own small way, I feel it has made a considerable contribution to the moral and intellectual decline of the present generation, and may well serve as a prime example of the nadir of artistic achievement at which Western Civilization has finally arrived.  This may seem like an idle boast to many, but the current trend in self-promotion makes outrageous hyperbole a virtual necessity (please note that I have deliberately changed the names of the last two novels mentioned above, for the simple reason that I felt like it.).”

OUT NOW: Growing Older with Jane Austen

9780719806971Growing Older With Jane Austen by Maggie Lane

That Jane Austen is enduringly popular with both a general readership and academics can admit of no doubt.  But amid the wealth of approaches to her life and work, no one has made a full-length study of the concept of ageing in her novels. Maggie Lane’s new book sets out to fill that gap.

With chapters on The Loss of Youth and Beauty; Old Wives and Old Maids; Merry Widows and Dowager Despots, the theme allows for a lively exploration of many of Austen’s most memorable characters.  There are chapters too on hypochondria and illness, age and poverty, death and wills. The book draws on the six novels, major literary fragments, Austen’s own letters and the reminiscences of family members and contemporaries.  Real-life examples are used to underline the fidelity of Austen’s fictional representation.

Ageing is very much on our own agenda, and Austen’s wry approach to the perils and consolations of growing older is bound to strike chords with many.

The Author

Maggie Lane has written many popular books about Jane Austen including Understanding Austen, which was also published by Robert Hale.  She has lectured on aspects of Jane Austen’s life and novels to the Jane Austen Societies of the UK, Canada, the US and Australia and has published in their respective journals.  Currently she is editor of the Jane Austen Society (UK) biannual Newsletter and Annual Report as well as consultant editor to the global Regency World magazine.


Buy your copy of Growing Older With Jane Austen here.

 

Ebook Spring Sale Titles

Spring has arrived and with it some great new books for your e-reader, currently on sale for under a pound!

EVT saleHead to the country with two of our most beloved authors. Three titles from the great E.V. Thomspon are available: God’s Highlander, Blue Dress Girl and The Bonds of Earth. Alternatively, head further north to Yorkshire and try two reads from Nicholas Rhea, the author of the Constable… books: Constable Across and the Moors and Murder at Maddleskirk Abbey.

kitsonIf crime fiction is more your style, two of Bill Kitson’s Mike Nash crime stories are part of the sale: Depth of Despair and Chosen.

Author Wendy Perriam heads to Broken Places for her story but if you prefer things a little more regal then don’t despair – A Crown of Despair by Jenny Mandeville is also part of the sale.

Sh! A Vow of Silence by Veronica Black is available, or you could enjoy a Star-Crossed Summer with Sarah Stanley.

Nicholas RheaIf the spring has made you want to travel the world, you can head to Berlin with The Boy from Berlin by Michael Parker or see for yourself what living in Venice is really like with Polly Coles’s The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice.

If you like your stories dark then try The Pershore Poisoners by Kerry Tombs or wartime fiction The Lambs by Peter James Cottrell.

For those with a Nook, there are also two great Maggie Lane titles available on Jane Austen.

Jane AustenHappy reading and here’s to more great weather and reading outdoors!

Christmas Favourites from Robert Hale Ltd

Wondering what to buy your nearest and dearest this holiday season? Wonder no more. We at Robert Hale Ltd have got something for everyone – from gripping ebooks for the technologically advanced to the ultimate Bat-bible for comic book fans and everything in between.

For fans of classic British literature, check out Maggie Lane’s Understanding Austen. Lane, acclaimed author of many Jane Austen books, turns her attention to the fascinating nuances of Austen’s language and the way it embodies her most profound beliefs about human conduct and character. Jane Austen Award nominee Amanda Grange shines a light on the life of Sense and Sensibility’s Colonel Brandon in Colonel Brandon’s Diary, offering fans of Austen’s work a chance to explore her world a little further.

If you know people more inclined to pick up a comic book than an Austen novel, however, we have the ultimate Bat-bible, Holy Franchise Batman! by Gary Collinson to entertain any bat-fans, even the more knowledgeable ones. The book follows the many manifestations of Bruce Wayne/Batman over the years from TV to cinema and is filled with fascinating Bat-facts.

If your loved ones shy away from books altogether, preferring to pick up their Kindle or Kobo and delve into an ebook, our ebook range includes everything from westerns to crime and romance. We have Robert Goddard’s first ever book Past Caring, the brilliant Inspector Box crime series by Norman Russell or the Helen Forrester series: Three Women of Liverpool, Liverpool Daisy and The Latchkey Kid. Both Aunt Letitia by Dominic Luke and Elizabeth Jackson’s Language of Thieves have zoomed up the Amazon rankings recently or you could try Peter Tickler’s Blood in Oxford series: Blood in Grandpont, Blood on the Cowley Road and Blood on the Marsh.

Don’t forget to check back with us for our Christmas ebook catalogue… coming soon!

If you fancy giving the men in your life something to laugh about this holiday season, check out Wearing Combovers and 49 Other Things That the Modern Man Shouldn’t Do, a book suitable for men both young and old that is packed with witty, laugh-out-loud observations on the human condition. Ranging from ‘Don’t be a Bond fantasist’ to ‘Don’t leave a high-five hanging’, this book is a hilarious addition to any man’s Christmas stocking.

If, however, your man is much more of an exercise/fitness fan and likes to keep in shape, our comprehensive guide Marathon Training by Nikalas Cook is sure to get them to the finishing line safely. In 28 weeks, you can go from complete non-runner, through your first 5k, 10k, half-marathon and finally to success in the full 26.2 miles of the marathon.

For those friends and relatives who love nothing more than to curl up this winter with a great piece of fiction, we have plenty to choose from. Delve into any of the compelling historical fiction tales by the late E.V. Thompson, including his final book, The Bonds of Earth. Alternatively, enjoy Wendy Perriam’s amusing writing edge either in Broken Places as librarian Eric struggles to move forward in his life or with I’m on the Train!, Perriam’s book of entertaining short stories.

Whatever you end up buying or reading this holiday season, enjoy yourself! Happy Christmas and season’s greetings from all at Robert Hale Ltd.

OUT TODAY: Understanding Austen by Maggie Lane

Understanding Austen by Maggie LaneMaggie Lane is the author of Jane Austen’s Family, Jane Austen’s England and Literary Daughters among other books. She has also published articles in The Annual Report of the Jane Austen Society and Persuasions, the journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She has lectured on Jane Austen in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. Having served for many years on the committee of the Jane Austen Society UK, she is now Chair of its South West branch; she lives in Exeter.

UNDERSTANDING AUSTEN BY MAGGIE LANE – OFFICIAL BLURB

No other author uses abstract nouns as extensively as Jane Austen. Three of her six novels even draw on such words for their titles: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Terms like ‘elegance’, ‘gentility’ and ‘propriety’seem to define her well-ordered, judgemental world.

In making the fine moral, psychological and social discriminations on which her plots depend, Jane Austen draws on the vocabulary of her age, which is both more abstract and more fixed than that of today. But as this study shows, she was capable of subtlety and even ambiguity in her deployment of such key concepts.

Here, Maggie Lane, acclaimed author of many Jane Austen books, turns her attention to the fascinating nuances of Austen’s language and the way it embodies her most profound beliefs about human conduct and character.

For more information, check out Maggie Lane’s author post on why she loves Jane Austen here.