7 Canadian books to read if you love Jane Austen

The Pride and Prejudice author died on July 18, 1817. If you've read all her books and are looking for something new, here are a few suggestions that would make Lizzy Bennet proud.
A drawing of Jane Austen, done by her sister Cassandra. (Public Domain)

Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817, leaving behind a body of work that has inspired readers for hundreds of years. Her seven novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, have sold millions of copies around the world and inspired dozens of adaptations on film, television, stage and more. 

If you're a fan of Austen, you should check out these books by Canadian authors.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

S.K. Ali is the author of the YA novel Saints and Misfits. (Simon & Schuster)

What it's about: Janna Yusuf is a sophomore in high school. She sees herself as a misfit who doesn't fit in at home or at school, and she has a crush on a boy who isn't Muslim, which is creating difficulties with her family. When a member of her Muslim community assaults her, she begins to realize that not everyone is who you believe them to be.

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. Both Fanny and Janna are mild-mannered young women who try not to rock the boat in an increasingly difficult situation.

If you're in the mood for: A contemporary coming-of-age story with a memorable protagonist that deals with difficult issues.

From Saints and Misfits: "Flannery O'Connor, my favorite author: That's who I need right now.

"Flannery would take me away from here and deposit me into her fictitious world crawling with self-righteous saints and larger-than-life misfits. And I'd feel okay there because Flannery took care of things. Justice got served."

Alice, I Think by Susan Juby

Susan Juby has written 12 books, including the bestselling YA novel Alice, I Think. (HarperCollins Canada)

What it's about: High school student Alice MacLeod has a breakdown and decides she needs to reevaluate her life. She makes a list of goals and sets out to get a job, a boyfriend and a good haircut. But getting these things isn't that easy.

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Emma Woodhouse from Emma. Both Emma and Alice tend to make things worse, not better, with their meddling ways. But they mean well.

If you're in the mood for:  A light-hearted, laugh-out-loud contemporary Canadian classic.

From Alice, I Think: "Maybe careers aren't something you can really plan for. They just sort of happen, like brown eyes or flat feet. I took one of those career aptitude tests last year, and it showed that I should be a flight attendant or a seamstress. Not a fashion designer or anything, mind you, but a sweatshop worker. Apparently stewardesses and sweatshop workers and I enjoy a lot of the same interests and activities."

Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

Terri Favro is the author of the sci-fi novel Sputnik's Children. (Ayelet Tsabari/ECW Press)

What it's about: Debbie is a successful, lorazepam-addicted comic artist who has decided to reveal the origin story of her once-popular character, Sputnik Chick, in order to get some extra cash. The twist? Debbie believes that Sputnik Chick is more than a character: she's her true alter ego. 

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Diana Parker. The character in Sanditon (the novel Austen failed to complete before she died) self-medicates, hangs out with fellow weirdos and has a worldview that few understand. 

If you're in the mood for: A quirky book with a unique heroine that blends genres and is funny yet touching.

From Sputnik's Children: "Despite quirky differences from Earth Standard Time — rogue viruses you've never caught, odd hem lengths, the sour-apple taste of Neutron Coke — if you were dropped into Atomic Mean Time, you would not feel totally out of place. You might even find it pleasantly nostalgic. All of the cultural touchstones of the pristine, pre-atomic age carried on undisturbed into Atomic Mean Time — Superman, Buster Keaton, Blondie & Dagwood, jazz, Casablanca, Mickey Mouse, the novels of Virginia Woolf, The Wizard of Oz and the Great American Songbook. Even after the split, many of the same cultural milestones popped up in both timelines: The Silver Surfer comics. Fins on cars. Disco. Beetle Bailey. Those smiley-face buttons that told you to Have a nice day! Sean Connery as James Bond, until he was imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the Scottish Parliament."

We're All in This Together by Amy Jones

Amy Jones won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction. (Spun Creative/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about:  Kate Parker is a 63-year-old grandmother living in Thunder Bay who decides to do something she's always dreamed of: go over a waterfall in a barrel. She survives the fall (and a cell phone video of the feat goes viral), but she slips into a coma a short while later. As a result, a wayward daughter returns home and Kate's large, eclectic family is thrown out of its comfort zone.

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Anne Elliot from Persuasion. A quiet young woman whose family is thrown into disarray when something unexpected happens? Check and check.

If you're in the mood for: A funny, charming novel about a dysfunctional family. 

From We're All in This Together: "Exactly two hours after her mother-in-law goes over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel, Katriina Parker has a miscarriage. She would never suggest the two incidents are related, but she also doesn't believe in coincidences. It had been an uneventful Friday morning, spent sitting at her desk updating the MLS listing for the Paulsson place and trying to figure out what she is going to make for supper that night and whether Shawn will be finished at the restaurant in time to pick Tommy up from tae kwon do or if she will have to end her open house early. And then the phone rings and Shawn is calling from the hospital and Kate is in a coma and no one can pick anyone up from anywhere."

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Ami McKay is the author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. Her latest novel is The Witches of New York.

What it's about: It's 1871 in New York City. 12-year-old Moth's mother is completely broke and down on her luck, and she has no choice but to sell Moth as a servant. Moth dreams about returning home, but befriends a doctor and other young women in an attempt to make the best of the situation.

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Both Catherine and Moth are young girls thrust into unusual circumstances who respond with pluck and optimism.

If you're in the mood for: Historical fiction featuring a street-smart young heroine who must keep her wits about her in order to survive.

From The Virgin Cure: "Mama stared at me not with sadness, but with pleading. She was thinner than I'd ever allowed myself to notice, looking more like a child than a woman. I wanted to believe she knew what was best for me. I wanted to believe she was like every other mother and that she loved me more than I loved her. I hoped if I followed her wishes, I would finally make her happy.

There were no tears at our goodbye. I knew Mama wouldn't stand for it. Tears offended her more than just about any other wrong a person could do. 'That's enough,' she'd say, scowling and stomping her heel on the floor whenever my eyes showed the slightest sign of being wet. 'American girls never whimper.'"

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

Kim Izzo is a screenwriter, journalist and author of three novels. (kimizzo.com)

What it's about: After Kate, a magazine editor, loses everything, she takes on a few freelance assignments to pay the rent. The most intriguing of the lot? An opportunity to see if the Austenian notion that a rich man can solve all your problems still rings true 200 years later. Kate gets to take a big step up the social ladder, but at what cost? 

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzy, like Kate, faces the ultimate Austenian question: marry right or marry rich? 

If you're in the mood for: A light-hearted fish-out-of-water tale that directly nods to its Austen inspiration. 

From The Jane Austen Marriage Manual"You've got to rely on people. I know you're hurting because of all the bad things that have happened to you, but in order to live, truly live, you've got to feel pain, you've got to trust, and you've got to love." 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known for a series of novels beginning in 1908 with Anne of Green Gables. (NATARK-Canadian Press/Pan Macmillan)

What it's about: Ah, the obvious yet classic choice. The story of the outspoken red-headed orphan accidentally adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert to work on their farm is arguably Canada's most iconic story. Anne could hold her own against any of Austen's heroines: she's smart, charming, independent and stands up for herself and what she believes in.

Read this if your favourite Jane Austen character is: Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. Both Anne and Marianne are passionate, headstrong young women who don't always think things through. 

If you're in the mood for: A classic story about a spunky, headstrong heroine.

From Anne of Green Gables: "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn't talk? If you say so I'll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it's difficult."

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