Jane Austen and the modern reader

Writers receive inspiration from a myriad of sources. One of the most common sources is through reading other author’s works, particularly classics. Stories like Cinderella, have been remade into over fifteen hundred different versions. For historical novelists, especially those who focus on the Regency era, Jane Austen is a popular outlet for inspiration. Since Jane Austen is also one of my favorite writers, I was interested to know how her novels played a hand in Julia Quinn’s novel, The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy.

Quinn writes: “Like most authors writing in my time period, I worship at the altar of Jane Austen, and while I do not credit her with the birth of the modern romance novel […], she must be acknowledged as the genre’s most vital and influential ancestor.” For many writers who base their fiction in historical venues, the best way to understand the life and expectations of their characters is to draw information from those who lived it. Jane Austen and her novels capture these expectations of propriety, marriage and family logistics. By referring to Austen’s works, as Quinn explains, it helps set the tone for the entire story.

Another great aspect of Austen’s story, and how it relates to inspiration for many modern-day authors, is her revolutionary ideas about woman and marriage. “She was writing about smart women in a time that did not celebrate smart women. She was writing about love and happy endings in a time that viewed marriage- in her social class, at least- as more of a business contract than a bond of love” (Quinn). These values are especially relatable in today’s world, with “strong females” and “true love” heading the top ten most-read romance tropes. Its ability to span across two centuries of history and still be relatable to readers is a testament to its progress. It makes finding the connection between modern-day readers and history that much easier.

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