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Jane Austen: Coming to life as a character in others’ novels

Book covers of The Jane Austen Project, The Austen Girls, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Jane and the Damned, and I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

While there are endless spin-offs and sequels to Jane Austen’s novels that using the characters she created to explore post-marriage life for our heroes and heroines, or different genres altogether, there are a number of books that use Jane Austen herself as a character for those of us who just can’t get enough of our favorite wordsmith.

Here’s a quick look at five of them.

“The Jane Austen Project” by Kathleen A. Flynn

Flynn’s novel, released in 2017, blends Regency manners and science fiction: Two modern-day people travel in time to befriend Jane Austen and figure out what caused her death as well as find an unpublished novel of hers. Complications ensue. Booklist praised it as being “written in an engaging Austen style, full of witty dialogue, a secret engagement, and a delightful clan of loving siblings.”

“The Austen Girls” by Lucy Worsley

Historian Lucy Worsley is perhaps better known for presenting documentaries and writing nonfiction. Released in 2020, the young adult novel “The Austen Girls” is Worsley’s fictional take on Austen in her role as an aunt guiding two nieces and helping them navigate the world of courtship and love.

“The Immortal Jane Austen” series by Janet Mullany

If you enjoyed “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” you might want to give Janet Mullany’s two novels, “Jane and the Damned” and “Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion,” a try. In these, Jane Austen becomes a vampire, who then defends her country against the French militia in the first book, while the sequel has slightly lower, erm, stakes.

“The Jane Austen Mysteries” by Stephanie Barron

This series boasts 14 books so far, in which our beloved author plays an amateur sleuth to help investigate murders and more. An interesting fact is that Barron worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. Publishers Weekly’s review of the 13th novel in the series, “Jane and the Waterloo Map,” mentions that “Austenites will enjoy the imaginative power with which Barron spins another riveting mystery around a writer generally assumed to have led a quiet and uneventful life.”

“I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend” by Cora Harrison

Geared towards young teens, “I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend” focuses on Jane as a young girl, unlike the previous entries in this list. Written from the perspective of Jane Austen’s cousin, Jenny Cooper, and as a diary, the novel is a “fun and fast-paced adventure as the girls learn about growing up, love, friendship, aspirations, and marriage,” according to the San Francisco Book Review.


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