Posted by Laura W on December 01, 1997 at 14:50:50:
In response to Future reads: I need your views, written by Kate on November 27, 1997 at 10:37:10
I'd like to suggest The Black Velvet Gown by Catherine Cookson, or Version and Diversion by Judith Terry.
The Black Velvet Gown takes place in Yorkshire in the 1830s. It deals with complex social issues such as education and property rights of women, pedophilia, coal mining, the serving classes, children born out of wedlock, etc. There was an excellent TV adaptation a few years ago (I think it was BBC/Masterpiece Theater). Unlike many modern novels which look back at the social issues of the day through a late-20th-century prism, this book deals with them as the realities they were. There is also a nice romance. I read this novel years ago and it is one of those books that really sticks with me.
Version and Diversion is a "parallel" novel to Mansfield Park, told from the perspective of one of the Bertram girl's abigail. It deals only lightly with Austen (although some of her "behind the scenes" interpretations are interesting and I think will provoke much discussion); the protagonist leaves MP and travels to London, where she makes her fortune. Aside from the Austen angle this book is particularly interesting for the "and times" -- the part Austen always left out: politics, social problems, the war, life of the underclass, etc.
A third suggestion, not for the faint of heart, is Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb, or anything by Fanny Burney. These books are difficult to get through and a reading schedule and discussion might be the only chance some of us have for ever finishing them!
I would also greatly enjoy a group read of anything by the Brontes, Wharton, Dickens (I've recently acquired Great Expectations and not yet read it), Forster, or James.
Just my $.02.
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