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Hello fellow Austen lovers,
I'm very new to this site, but I know a good thing when I see it and I believe you are just the people whose brain I would like to pick.
I've loved Austen for a while, but recently I've started trying to read victorian romances, so far Jane Eyre and North and South. I enjoyed both of these novels, but they just didn't satisfy me like Austen does. I have to admit I love the romance aspect, but the characters, and the society aspect in Jane Austen's work is just as important to me. Have any of you found anyone that comes close to Jane Austen's brilliance?
What an interesting question!
It depends, of course, to some extent on what exactly it is that you personally get from JA, but I fear that, for most of us, the answer is that she was a one-off, and that there are no substitutes for her.
Speaking personally, the Victorian novelist who, for me, most shares JA's very mature approach to people, their relationships and their feelings is Trollope. But Trollope is a different kind of writer, anyway, and you wouldn't use the word 'brilliance' in connection with him.
Or you might try stepping back and try reading Fanny Burney, whom JA admired, and was influenced by, starting with, say, 'Evelina'. But I fear you'll simply decide that JA was so much better ...
Sorry - I think you'll probably find yourself rereading the JA canon. (But I don't know why I say 'sorry' - it's no hardship!)
I would agree with #2 that Trollope comes closest amongst 19th century authors, particularly in the romances Framley Parsonage and Doctor Thorne.
Moving into the 20th century, I am also partial to Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey and Maturin books, which one critic said might have been written by Jane Austen's sailor brother. The first book in the series Master and Commander is a rather straightforward nautical adventure set in the Napoleonic wars, but from the second book onwards they develop into as much a comedy of manners as a naval adventure.
I once read that Fanny Burney was an inspiration for Jane Austen. I read one of her books Evelina and found it wonderful, although obviously not the same as Jane. Burney is less witty and sarcastic but interesting all the same. She's interested in exploring English society and culture at her time (slightly earlier than Austen) as well and has a romance that isn't entirely vapid like many others. Some quirky characters are contained with Evelina's pages, although I don't find Evelina herself to be particularly engaging. It's an epistolary novel as many of Jane Austen's earlier novels/first drafts were. Burney has other books out there, too, that I would eventually like to get my hands on but haven't yet for various reasons (mostly lack of time).
Whoops, I just stepped back and realized message #2 mentioned Evelina already. Sorry!
You might be interested to read a version of this conversation last time it came 'round (I expect it's a perennial favourite):
I guess nobody can exactly equal Jane Austen in brilliance but the book that came closest for me lately was 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter'. (Posted a review of it in my books) The mother/daughter co authors took Austens early work 'Lady Susan' that was a novel written in letters and adapted it into a narrative novel - what Austen is said to have done with 'Sense and Sensibility' that was originally called 'Elinor and Marianne' and written in letters before she reworked it.
For me this book does the best job of replicating Austens voice of any of the new Austen books out there and the way the plot was put together and the dialogue were also very 'Austen'. The character of Sir James Martin who is a silly two dimensional background character in 'Lady Susan' but in 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter' turns into a character who is funny and full of mischief but still a hero - just fell in love with him.
For books written in Austens day, in her diaries she mentions reading 'The Heroine' that is sort of a romp that lampoons the episodic coming of age books - written by E.S. Barrett - Austen says that she enjoyed this book.
I recently read a mystery set in 1805 or so, Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean. While it doesn't feature any Austen characters, it feels like the author is steeped in Austen. A nice read.
Though North and South might not have done it for you, Wives and Daughters, while not exactly Austenesque, has some kind of similary feel, and some of the society aspects. Though written in Victorian times, I think it might take place a little earlier. Cranford was good too, and didn't ramble on as some Victorian novels do.
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