Reading Jane Austen is the best form of training for a heroine.
When I find myself overwhelmed by modern life, I close my eyes and picture myself in a Jane Austen novel. The aesthetics may be simpler – the bonnets and empire waist skirts, the piano-fortes and ballrooms – but the complex challenges the heroines faced are uncannily similar to our own.
There is much to be learned about ourselves as the heroines of our own stories, through Ms Austen’s women – if only we take the time to read their stories and learn from their lessons.
Confession: I had a hard time getting through Jane Austen as a teenager.
I didn’t get it. I was a speed-reading, multi-tasking busybody, and if I hadn’t found a mentor, I wouldn’t have made it through a single Austen novel. But I did find her, and after a year of her guidance through Regency England, I was a total Janeite.
I would like to return the service. Jane Austen’s novels are essential reading for heroines in training: I have learned so many life lessons from her heroines and their surprisingly relatable realities.
You are cordially invited
…to receive a year of weekly digital letters inspired by the literary correspondences in Jane Austen’s novels and life.
Join me as I reread Ms Austen’s six novels, penning lessons from the heroines along the way.
Whether you’ve already read the canon, seen a film adaptation or two, or want to enter in to the world of Austen for the first time, these letters are for fanatics and casual fans alike.
In the bustle of the millennium, sometimes it is hard to find the time to sit down with a good novel, and yet, if we did, we would learn so much – not just about Regency England, but about our own everyday lives.
I find it both easier and more pleasant to dive into such an activity with a friend. Would you like to be Jane Austen pen pals?
BEGIN YOUR HEROINE’S JOURNEY
Sign me up for 53 digital letters!
$99 or $10/month
Northanger Abbey / Believing in Yourself
- Letter 1 ~ Chapter 1 ~ In training for a heroine
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 2-6 ~ Meeting one’s love interest
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 7-11 ~ In defense of the novel
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 12-14 ~ Dealing with fickle friends
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 15-17 ~ How not to propose marriage
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 18-21 ~ When fantasy becomes reality
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 22-24 ~ When one’s imagination runs a bit wild
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 25-31 ~ How far we’ve come
Sense and Sensibility / Living Your Dream
- Letter 1 ~ Chapters 1 ~ Are you a Marianne or an Elinor?
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 2-10 ~ Dealing with unrequited love
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 11-18 ~ Is love at first sight a thing?
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 19-25 ~ Sisterly dynamics
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 26-32 ~ The problem with too many secrets
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 33-37 ~ On small talk
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 38-43 ~ On writing letters
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 44-50 ~ We’re more similar than different
Pride and Prejudice / Making First Impressions
- Letter 1 ~ Chapters 1-8 ~ First impressions
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 9-16 ~ How to impress Mr Darcy
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 17-21 ~ Clarity, communication, and Mr Collins
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 22-28 ~ Balancing prudence with passion
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 29-35 ~ Practice makes perfect
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 36-42 ~ How to live folly-free
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 43-46 ~ Home is where the heart shows
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 47-53 ~ What to learn from Lydia Bennet
- Letter 9 ~ Chapters 54-61 ~ How you get the guy
Emma / Persevering with Grace
- Letter 1 ~ Chapters 1-7 ~ Why we need challenges and vexation
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 8-13 ~ How to stay on task
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 14-21 ~ How to recover from blundering most dreadfully
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 22-28 ~ Never apologise for your haircut
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 29-34 ~ Symptoms of being in love
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 35-42 ~ Be a fine lady, not a Mrs Elton
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 43-47 ~ It’s simple. Be kind.
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 48-55 ~ When it’s right, it’s right.
Mansfield Park / Proving You’re Worth It
- Letter 1 ~ Chapters 1-5 ~ When you can’t find the heroine in yourself
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 6-11 ~ Falling for a baddie
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 12-18 ~ Standing your ground under peer pressure
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 19-24 ~ Be patient: your time will come
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 25-29 ~ Navigating a love triangle
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 30-34 ~ When authority stomps on your dreams
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 35-50 ~ Finding home
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 41-48 ~ Happily ever after
Persuasion / Persisting Through the Ages
- Letter 1 ~ Chapters 1-4 ~ It is the age of opportunity
- Letter 2 ~ Chapters 5-7 ~ Finding your place in the seemingly impossible
- Letter 3 ~ Chapters 8-11 ~ Be younger in feeling
- Letter 4 ~ Chapters 12-12 ~ Get thee to the sea
- Letter 5 ~ Chapters 14-17 ~ What do you value in friendship?
- Letter 6 ~ Chapters 18-20 ~ The road to relationship recovery
- Letter 7 ~ Chapters 21-22 ~To handle a scandal
- Letter 8 ~ Chapters 22-24 ~ The final letter
You will receive:
- weekly letters corresponding to a couple of chapters at a time
- modern-day commentary on Austen heroine happenings
- advice gleaned from the wisdom imparted by our sassy Miss Jane
A PEEK AT THE FIRST LETTER
We begin our journey with a lady called Catherine Morland. At the beginning of Northanger Abbey she is just an infant, and in fact, “no one…would have supposed her born to be a heroine.” How different are these words to the typical fairy tale, in which a seemingly perfect, virtuous maiden is introduced!
The lesson we can learn from Miss Austen through Miss Morland is that there is no prescription for heroine-ism. One can be plain and boyish, because “watering a rose-bush” does not a heroine make, even if that’s all she seems to be doing in fanciful works of fiction.
The irony is that I have set out to compose a year’s worth of letters containing life lessons, and yet, the first chapter that begins this quest points out that being a heroine is not a matter of following certain steps, developing certain hobbies, or memorizing certain quotations of wisdom.
The aim of these letters is to aid you in your personal heroine training, and as the keen reader may have guessed, it is this very chapter that inspired HeroineTraining.com. This is, in part, the reason for starting our Austen adventure with Northanger Abbey, but the other reason is that it was Jane Austen’s first novel. Finished in 1803, it was purchased by a publisher, but never published during her lifetime, which just goes to show that true heroine-ism can be overlooked.
So if you feel at all strange, un-heroic, or at best “almost pretty”, remember that being a heroine is just about changing these feelings, not about changing yourself. The first step is believing that you are your own heroine, because when you do, the chapters will unfold.
Meet Your Correspondent
Your new Jane Austen pen pal, Xandra Robinson-Burns, believes in magic, the novel, and improving one’s penmanship.
Her passion for magical worlds led her to the University of Oxford to read English, with a focus on Jane Austen. She now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she delivered her TEDx talk on the power of fiction.
Xandra, a Gryffindor, spends her free time Instagramming her coffee cups and learning Disney songs on the guitar.
So how does this work exactly?
You will receive a welcome letter confirming that you have been added to my Austen mailing list. If you are receiving the letters only, your first one will arrive on the Friday following your subscription. If you are joining us for book club, your first letter will arrive in January.
Do I have to read along?
No. Each letter will be based on a selection of chapters from Jane Austen’s novels in chronological order so that you may read along if you wish. The letters are crafted so that they do not require extra reading to understand, but I do recommend some familiarity with Austen and the story for reference.
What if I know nothing about Jane Austen?
This is the perfect way to get introduced! Each letter stands for itself, and can benefit those who do not read along with the books, but I do think that you will get more out of the experience if you are at least familiar with the novels.