Please welcome Jessie from Dwell in Possibility!
It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that six completed novels by Jane Austen is simply not enough. Or at least it’s a truth acknowledged by every Janeite. Once you’ve read (and reread) all of her oeuvre, you may be at a loss as to what to read next.
While there can be no replacement for her wit, genius, and talent, there are some authors whose works are reminiscent of our beloved Jane’s. If you are looking to fill the Jane Austen void in your life, these Austenesque writers may just do the trick.
Frances (Fanny) Burney (1752-1840)
Jane Austen herself was a great admirer of Fanny Burney. The idea for the title of Pride and Prejudice even came from Burney’s novel Cecilia. There can be no greater recommendation than that! Burney’s eighteenth-century comedies of manners are sparkling and effervescent reads. Her lively dialogue, outrageous secondary characters, dashing heroes, and lovable heroines should be tempting to Jane Austen enthusiasts. It’s also interesting to look for the ways in which her writing served as inspiration for Austen.
A Good Place to Start: Evelina
Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)
Maria Edgeworth was another of Jane Austen’s favorite authors; Jane even sent her a copy of Emma before it was published. There’s something thrilling about reading the books she grew up with. Like Austen, Edgeworth’s works feature social satire, strong heroines, and marriage plots. Her novels focus on morality and explore the broader themes of politics, religion, gender, and race.
A Good Place to Start: Belinda
Emily Eden (1797-1869)
Emily Eden is a lesser-known nineteenth century writer, whose work is imbued with a vibrant intelligence that many Janeites should find appealing. Eden also counted Austen among her favorite authors. Discovering her novels is like uncovering comedic buried treasure. Emily Eden’s writing showcases shrewd psychological insight and clever social commentary.
A Good Place to Start: The Semi-Attached Couple
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
If you were to cross Jane Austen with Charles Dickens, you would get Elizabeth Gaskell. In fact, Gaskell even wrote for the magazine that was published by Dickens. Her works highlight Victorian era social and economic issues and explore women’s roles. There’s also plenty of romance and glimpses of everyday life. North and South features a love story that is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, while Cranford looks at life in a small English village, and Wives and Daughters tackles familial relationships and unrequited love.
A Good Place to Start: North and South
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Sometimes referred to as the male Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope wrote highly readable, character-centric, domestic novels. The prolific Victorian novelist was adept at creating nuanced, complex characters that face everyday problems and grapple with life’s big questions. Many of his works also explore courtship and marriage, yet unlike Austen, he offers insight into the male perspective as well as the female. Trollope’s novels are full of gossip, politics, and social interactions that are still relevant to readers today.
A Good Place to Start: Doctor Thorne
Mrs. (Margaret) Oliphant (1828-1897)
Mrs. Oliphant was a huge admirer of Jane Austen; she even wrote about the author’s life and works in her capacity as a literary critic. Her own novels are light reads full of clever observations of Victorian life. Mrs. Oliphant masterfully weaves subtle irony, social satire, and sparkling dialogue. This bestselling Victorian author- although less known today- is worth seeking out.
A Good Place to Start: Miss Marjoribanks
Angela Thirkell (1890-1961)
Angela Thirkell’s charming pastoral comedies provide amusing slices of English life before and during WWII. Similar to Austen, her plots often center on matchmaking and marriage, along with the common occurrences of day-to-day village life. Thirkell is certainly an author who drew inspiration from the past. In fact, she set her novels in the fictional English countryside of Barsetshire originally created by Anthony Trollope. Her fully drawn characters, engaging dialogue, and witty observations make for enjoyable reading indeed.
A Good Place to Start: Wild Strawberries or High Rising
Georgette Heyer (1902-1974)
She’s known as the Queen of the Regency romance for a reason. Georgette Heyer has a keen eye for period details, as well as a huge talent for replicating Regency slang. Heyer’s novels vividly bring to life the world in which Jane Austen lived and wrote. Her novels are laugh-out loud funny and full of ridiculous hijinks and plenty of romantic entanglements. Many of her heroes are just as swoon-worthy as Mr. Darcy himself, while her heroines are intelligent, quick-witted, and strong. Luckily, Heyer was incredibly prolific, and she left a wealth of works to choose from.
A Good Place to Start: The Grand Sophy
Barbara Pym (1913-1980)
Barbara Pym was a popular mid-century writer whose works sadly fell out of fashion- and out of print- for several decades. Often referred to as a modern Jane Austen, Pym’s novels capture the everyday lives of women with superb wit and insight. Like Austen, she writes about the small section of society in which she was a part. Her comedies are populated with middle-class characters: vicars, academics, “spinsters,” and office workers. Pym brilliantly finds the humor and the value in the mundane.
A Good Place to Start: Jane and Prudence or Excellent Women
Jude Morgan (Tim Wilson)
Jude Morgan is the pseudonym used by English author Tim Wilson. His Regency historical fiction follows in the grand tradition of Georgette Heyer. With witty banter, clever heroines, and stellar writing, Morgan’s novels are sure to appeal to readers who can’t get enough of the Regency era.
A Good Place to Start: An Accomplished Woman
10 Bonus Austenesque Reads
These books may give you an Austen vibe:
- The Female Quixote, Charlotte Lennox (1752)
- The Woman of Colour: A Tale, Anonymous (1808)
- The Blue Castle, M. Montgomery (1926)
- Diary of a Provincial Lady, E. M. Delafield (1930)
- Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (1932)
- Miss Buncle’s Book, D. E. Stevenson (1934)
- The Makioka Sisters, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (1943)
- The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford (1945)
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (1948)
- A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth (1993)
What writers remind you of Austen? Do you have a favorite Austenesque book?
Jessie has been an avid Janeite since she first picked up Pride and Prejudice at the age of eleven. When not reading or watching period dramas, she can be found blogging at Dwell in Possibility.