I recently spent hours at our trusty Barnes and Noble, wandering the stacks and sitting amongst the hundreds of books, picking the perfect ones. I spent quite a lot of time in the classics section among some of my favorite books ever written. As I scanned the shelves, I noticed a couple of Jane Austen novels myself and other my English major friend had never heard of or studied at university. They were in the classic section, so I know they are popular, but if two well-read women hadn’t heard of them, I figure others may not have too.
Here are the three Austen novels I think deserve a bit more recognition and a spot on your shelves!
1. Lady Susan
Lady Susan is an epistolary novel written in 1794, but not published until after her death in 1871. This novel follows Lady Susan Vernon whose husband died in her thirties and she has an affair with a married man. Lady Susan chases validation through love and lovers, but is never truly satisfied. I am always fascinated when woman authors risked writing about romance and lust in a time when they were silenced.
I think it’s badass and it’s why I deeply love 18th-century British literature. This is definitely a novel I know I will enjoy and will be adding to my reading list.
2. Mansfield Park
Mansfield Park is about the heroine Fanny Price whose lower-class family sent her to be raised in the rich household of her aunt and uncle. Fanny is treated horribly by most of her family because of where she came from. This story focuses on class, the bonds of family, the role of women, and Fanny’s growth to adulthood.
I am actually surprised I have never heard of this book, because I have read many like it! This concept about a poor young girl living with a rich family to give herself a future and send money home is a commonly used plot during this time and also years prior. Once again, a book I will be adding this to my shelves.
3. Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey is a coming-of-age novel about the young Catherine Morland and her discovery of herself and the world around her. She has a warped view of reality due to her love of Gothic novels and a young, active imagination. Just as Lady Susan was, Northanger Abbey was published after her death. Her distorted sense of reality reminds me of Madame Bovary; clouded by unattainable literary tropes that leave both characters pining and confused in their realities. My love for Madame Bovary means I will certainly enjoy this novel!
If you were already aware of these novels, I am jealous and want to get on your level! If you also haven’t read these novels, there is still time to ask for them this holiday season!
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