My journey began with Mansfield Park. I had attempted this novel once before, and I confess I got stuck when the characters are rehearsing a play. This time around, however, I was determined. The play rehearsals are a pretty important part of the novel in that during this time the reader sees the character traits of the participants. Henry Crawford is an outrageous flirt (and a bit of a cad), Edmund doesn't have the strength of character to resist Mary Crawford's charms, and Fanny Price, the steady heroine of the novel, is working very hard to avoid participating in this folly. I thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield Park and am now a fan of Fanny Price. Fanny is in the position of being the poor relation reliant on the goodness of others, and accepts her position in the family with a good deal of grace. She ingratiates herself to her aunt and uncle, and becomes an integral part of their lives, particularly as their own offspring make questionable choices. I enjoyed my time at Mansfield Park, and will definitely read this one again!
Next, I visited Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland's overactive imagination gets the best of her in Northanger Abbey, despite the fact that the actual home is not nearly as dark and dangerous as she anticipates. This book had me laughing, and is the simplest and most light-hearted Austen novel I have read. Jane Austen must have had a wonderful time writing this novel poking fun of the Gothic literature of her day, and she crafts her own story with a steady hand and a good deal of humor. I quite enjoyed Henry Tilney and his complete understanding of the workings of the mind of seventeen year old Catherine. I especially appreciated when Henry says "The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid."
Sprinkled into my month were a couple of detours for Jane Austen in film. I watched versions of Persuasion, Emma, and the movie, The Lake House (with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves). The novel, Persuasion, has a role in The Lake House, so I justified throwing it in to my August experience.
Lastly, I took A Rambling Fancy with Caroline Sanderson through England, looking for locations and events in the life of Jane Austen. Sanderson sprinkles her well-written book with interesting insights into the life of Jane and the Austen family, and also includes quotes from Austen's novels. This was my first encounter with little poems written by Jane for family, and with excerpts from her few remaining letters. Sanderson has woven all of this into chapters about Bath, Lyme Regis, and other locations Austen lived and visited in her lifetime. It is a wonderful read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The title, by the way, is taken from Mansfield Park. After her journey through Austen's England, Caroline Sanderson sums up her experience this way:
"Jane Austen tea towels and the like are all very well (I have a key ring myself), but her words are the only souvenirs from the journey really worth having."
As I (sadly) leave August and Jane Austen, I heartily agree that her words are wonderful souvenirs from my journey!
I enjoyed the following blog posts from Lark Writes while I was doing my own Austen in August reading. Check them out!