JAFF Anonymous

Jane Austen Fan Fiction Anonymous Meetings Here! 24 hours a Day; 7 Days a Week! We Don't Suffer, We Celebrate!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Maria Grazia: I So Wanted to Have a Jane Austen Book Club

Guest Post by Maria Grazia

Hi, Darcyholics!  What a treat it is to meet Darcyholics from all over the world.  Maria lives in Italy, but many of you know her from her site 'Fly High' and 'My Jane Austen Book Club'.  I am so happy that she agreed to let us know a little bit about herself today!

Upcoming Guest Posts Are As Follows:
March 2--Rita Watts
March 6--Ruth Oakland
March 9--Jack Caldwell (Celebrating The Three Colonels release)
March 13--Lynne Robson
March 16--Mary Simonsen
March 17--Jennifer Hickling (michchick)
March 20--Jan Hahn (release of The Journey)
March 23--Jeane Alvarez (P&P2005 blog)
March 27--Lucy S. 
March 30--Elizabeth Kantor
April 3--Bonnie Carlson
April 6--China Fuentes-Montero
April 10--Matt Duffy
April 13--Regina Jeffers
April 17--Elizabeth Ashton
April 20--Susan Mason-Milks
May 4--Susan Adriani
And Many more to come!

Comments on Maria’s post will enter you into this month's monthly drawing for 2 autographed copies of my book, Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy--to be given away at the end of the month from all the comments on the blog this month). Entries will be based on comments on blog posts; but additional chances will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, Joining this site as a member!, sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend me on Facebook, clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook page, Join Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page or following BarbTCole on Twitter.

Maria Grazia: I So Wanted to have a Jane Austen Reading Club! 

I wanted my little Jane Austen corner in the blogosphere, My Jane Austen Book Club, to support my real life Jane Austen reading club. I was so happy and excited  when I was chosen as  the moderator of a reading group  at the public library in my town in a project to read Jane Austen’s six major novels one each month from January to June 2010. It was inspired to the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club”, which I had loved.

I expected to meet other Janeites, at last. Living in a small provincial town in the mountains near Rome, I really knew none living near me. Only a couple of friends in Rome.

A small group of readers came: few of my students with their friends and two elderly ladies. None of them was really interested in reading Jane Austen. They were enthusiastic of being part of a reading club but not at all interested in Austen, the Regency or English literature. I was rather disappointed actually, but not hopeless.

First meeting. Sense and Sensibility. The two elderly ladies were competing all the time. They wanted to be always the centre of our attention, they didn’t respect turns, they only wished to say what they thought and not to listen to the others’ opinions . First book was one always talked and digressed about how beautiful watching Pride and Prejudice 1940Oh! Laurence Olivier! Oh! Mr Darcy! -  was or how interesting reading the critical preface to her edition of S&S was; the other kind lady  tried to interrupt her in order to start preaching against scandalous, immoral Miss Austen (Poor Jane! Immoral? Scandalous?) . Why weren’t we reading Dante Alighieri and his Divina Commedia? That rascal Willoughby (pronounced Villòbi) and that sissy Marianne. They were so improper, lascivious! They disappeared in their barouche and ... could  we imagine what they did? Morever, we hadn’t read that book (Mansfield Park) yet ... but, did  we know that in that immoral novel  two cousins got married? That was incest.

Good Heaven! I watched the girls laughing  and getting more and more disinterested in the discussion and didn’t actually know what to do. I couldn’t reproach the ladies as I usually do at school with naughty teenagers.  The rest of the group  nicknamed one of the two ladies Miss Bates and the other Lady De Bourgh. Actually I liked them, the two ladies I mean, they made the discussion livelier, while the girls never wanted to speak, expecting me to talk  all the time as a teacher usually does giving lectures.

Mmmm, not a very positive experience indeed. I so wanted to meet real Janeites. What could I do? I asked for help from my Janeite friends who live in Rome and they came a couple of times. It was much more fun with them!

(Journals of Meeting 2Meeting 3Meeting 4Meeting 5Meeting 6)

Meanwhile, my little blog Austen-dedicated grew and grew. I got in touch with lots of writers, publicists, readers interested in Jane Austen and ... my comically disappointing experience in real life, was not so important any longer. I had what I wanted: A virtual place where people who were fond of Jane Austen could meet.  Different opinions very  are welcome as stimuli to real discussion but if one is not interested in our beloved writer, they won’t read my blog.

My Jane Austen Book Club is two years old now  (started on January 16th, 2010) and goes on growing.  I’ve added  a daily twitter paper to it (The Everything Austen Daily) and a facebook page ( more than 1,000 likes!) I was interviewed by other bloggers because of my Austenmania and related activity on line. Can you imagine, how glad that can make me?

What? As a teacher, do I succeed in making my students love Jane Austen? Well, that’s another story. And not a happy ending one. Maybe, I’ll tell you about it another time.

Have you got any questions for me? I’d be glad to answer. Enjoy Barbara’s lovely blog. Thanks for reading me today!



  1. Buongiorno, Maria,
    I'm laughing at your description of the two old ladies. I'd have love to be there and then use them as characters in a novel.

    Something about two old Italian ladies discussing the immorality of JA is just too funny. But, I'm so glad your RL experience made you go virtual and we all benefit!

    Baci e abbraci,

  2. Thanks, Nina! Yes, isn't it funny? Had you noticed how immoral Jane Austen's novels were before reading this post? There is always something to learn taking part in reading groups, you know ;-)

  3. You are one busy lady! Maintaining all those online sites (which are great, by the way!) and teaching and book club and who knows what else. The book club looks so fun! The story of the two old ladies is funny. As we say "there's one in every crowd" but you were lucky enough to get two. At least it wasn't boring.

    I have yet to connect with a group of Janeites near me, but maybe I just need to try a little harder. I need to wear a shirt that says "ask me about Mr Darcy" on it.

    Best wishes!

  4. Buongiorno Maria.

    Your first meeting sounds funny and on the other side like a total catastrophe! But I think Nina is right, use them as characters, that would be a very good read! I am glad that you have come on Darcyholic Diversions and writes about your Austen experience. Your book club sounds like what I am after, since I know about people who really don't get JA and her books. I hope to get to know other Janites in my own country, but hasn't been lucky yet, until I discovered this site and Austen Authors on facebook.

    Thank you for writing about your experiences with a JA book club!
    I hope you will make one here on the internet.

    With my regards and best wishes!

  5. Thanks Monica and Sophia-Elizabeth for your kind comments. My book club at the library is an experience dating back to two yeard ago. Well, it didn't let me meet real Janeites but now My Jane Austen Book Club on line (http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com/)
    has opened a boundless world to me crowded of wonderful enthusiastic people like you two and Barbara and so many others!
    I'll wait for you there to discuss Austen-related topics and the next new release in the Austenesque book market.

  6. What fun to have a book club with Miss Bates and Lady Catherine as members! I loved your post, Maria, and I enjoyed reading your journals. You are a true Jane Austen proficient, promoting our beloved author in your homeland and all over the world!

  7. Thank you, Jan! That's very kind of you. But you do even more keeping her beloved characters alive in your own stories for all of us to enjoy :D

  8. Maria, I enjoyed reading your post and especially enjoyed the journals. I'm still having trouble with our dear Jane being 'immoral, scandalous'? Shocking!!

    But the question:
    "Why do you like Jane Austen so much? She only wrote six novels and they are all alike: balls, courtship, marriage. Once you've read one, you've read them all!"
    I shouted out loud! WHAAATTT??!!!
    It's a good thing your courage rose above the intimidation and you came through the experience with our Dear Jane still whole and uninjured! :)

  9. That was one of my students! She is in one of my last year courses this year. She is always so critical and judgemental. Now we're reading Gaskell, Dickens and C.Bronte analyzing the social issues in Mary Barton, North and South, Hard Times, David Copperfield and Shirley. She seems quite interested. Fingers crossed!

  10. Maria Grazia,

    I've heard of you long before this blog through a common online friend Adriana Zardini. Since I love all things Italian as well as all things Jane, I looked you up and your blogs and started to follow as much as I could. I am a Brazilian Janeite that found her Mr. Darcy in the US (since Colin was taken, that is). Until I met other Brazilian Janeites on facebook I was alone in the world of Austen. After that, I joined JASNA and met wonderful people here in my corner (near Atlanta, GA) and other international Janeites like yourself. So, my question to you is how do you like Brazilian Janeites? How did you meet them? I would love to hear! Thank you for your post and the hilarious story of your old ladies. Jane Austen immoral and scandalous...so funny! It made me think about what real Regency ladies thought of her when she published her books! Wonderful thought!

  11. I think you are doing wonderful job in Italy and on the world web, connecting Austen fans! Recently I found your daily paper "The Everything Auten daily" and it is so helpful in discovering what is new in the Austenesque world.
    I also liked your collage of P&P first proposal (posted in the third journal), it allowed me to revisit one of my favourite P&P moments once again:))
    Thank you for all you are doing for Jane Austen fans. Wish you all the best in your efforts and endeavours!

  12. I admire your tenacity in sticking with your book club although it does sound entertaining, the two older ladies, that is! Glad you found what you wanted with your blog! There are so many wonderful Janeites to meet online!

    Enjoyed reading your post and your journals!

  13. Thanks for your lovely comments, ladies, you are all very kind to me.
    @Rita Watts
    How do I like Brazilian Janeites? Adriana, you mention, is so active! Her enthusiasm is contagious. She is a teacher of English like me, so we share much more than our love for everything Austen. As for the others I've virtually met, but whom I know less, they all share that great positive enthusiasm I recognized in Adriana. Thanks for following, Rita.
    I'm glad you find my daily paper useful and that you liked my collage of P&P first proposals. Which is your favourite one?
    Tenacious ... mmmm... that's an adjective I like. I don't give up easily and, in the end, that experience too had its positive moments and its rewarding results. If not for the other members, for me DEFINITELY.

    1. @ Maria Grazia
      My eternal favourite is Andrew Davies 1995 adaptation:) J.Ehle and C.Firth played the first proposal scene fabulously (as all other scenes:)). Darcy by L.Olivier was a bit rash, too soon calling Elizabeth "dearest" and taking her hand (this adaptation reminded me more of Gone with the Wind than regency novel). The second Darcy seemed to me a little bit stiff and theatrical. And in the adaptation of 2005 M.Macfadyan and K.Knightly played the first proposal in very modern way (IMHO), their heated arguing was too much heated and quick in pace to my liking. So Colin is the best movie Darcy for me and Jennifer is the best Lizzy (at least till the time even better adaption is produced).
      Am I right in concluding that we share similar preferences?:) I presumed that we might, at least judging from special page on Fly High dedicated to C.Firth:))

    2. Well, I admire Mr Darcy (though my favourite Austen hero is Captain Wentworth) and Mr Firth (also as modern Mark Darcy in the first Bridget Jones movie) I loved him in The King's Speech, as well!

  14. MG, I love your story about your My Jane Austen Book Club. How it all started and how it has developed into such a well read blog. I also read the reports of your real book club meetings and enjoyed the pictures. You get an idea of the place and the atmosphere. Did you eventually continue with the book club meetings at your local public library?
    Ciao, Monica

    1. No, actually it was my first and last experience, Monica. This year they have a Harry Potter reading club and ... not my cup of tea!