The Jane Austen Effect

A friend recently described my reading taste as “bell jar-ry,” which is spot-on. I typically like my fiction dark and dysfunctional. Domestic dramas with conflicted characters and gritty, unresolved endings are my preference—most of the time. But every so often, usually during the summer, I crave a charming romantic comedy. I call this the Jane Austen Effect. Jane Austen made me a lifelong reader, and I have happy, almost cellular, memories of reading and re-reading a worn-out Penguin classics copy of Pride and Prejudice. The romantic comedy is really an art form, and no one does it better than Jane Austen. Still, there are some wonderful romantic comedies by contemporary authors that achieve that magical balance between swooning and satire.

Elinor Lipman is often compared to Jane Austen and for good reason. Her dialogue is crisp and smart, her characters are multi-dimensional, and her wit is razor sharp. There is always morality, but no moralizing, in her stories. None of her titles have ever disappointed me, but I particularly enjoyed The Family Man , The Pursuit of Alice Thrift , and The Inn at Lake Devine .

Here are other romantic comedies that make for wonderful summertime reading—even if you’re not on a beach.

Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

There’s a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro

This Side of Married by Rachel Pastan

Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos


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