It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader in possession of a decent library must be in want of more books. There's a part of every reader that's a little in love with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and it took me a very long time to really understand why. This was always a bit of a strange struggle for me, especially since I really enjoyed the setting of her novels: marriage was like a giant game of chess; there were balls; there was dancing! However, up until recently, I preferred other works set in the same time period, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. I liked my prose strange and witty and my characters on the brink of madness. I liked my portraits magical and my antagonists as creepy and supernatural as possible. I loved Pride and Prejudice — if there were zombies involved. So what changed for me?
Well, I actually read Pride and Prejudice, and I immediately understood what I was missing. It didn't need zombies. It didn't need vampires. It didn't need magical pictures. When I finished, I immediately decided that I wanted to read more novels like it. However, Jane Austen only wrote so many books, so in my quest for more, I curated this list of ten books to read if you love Pride and Prejudice. From vintage to contemporary, these books celebrate female protagonists finding themselves and love... if that's what they want, of course. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and settle in with one of these novels.
1. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Set in England in the mid-19th century, Wives and Daughters centers on young Molly Gibson, a woman who has been brought up by her single father for most of her life. When he suddenly remarries, Molly gains a new stepsister, Cynthia, a loving girl who is also worldly and troubled. The book follows these two girls into womanhood and sprinkles their stories with critiques of old school Victorian society.
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Our nameless narrator begins the tale as she's swept off her feet by the handsome and wealthy widower Maxim de Winter. An orphan working as a lady's maid, the narrator is shocked by Maxim's sudden proposal, but she agrees. He whisks her away to Manderly, where the specter of his late wife threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
3. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Walter Hartright has been hired to be the drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie at the Cumberland estate of Limmeridge House. On his way to the mansion, he has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman in white who happens to be an escaped mental patient from the local asylum. Walter and Laura quickly fall in love, which catches the attention of the nefarious Sir Percival Glyde, who has an interest in Laura for himself. The story unfolds in pure Victorian literary fashion, and intrigue, horrible marriages, and mistaken identities abound.
4. The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz
It's the turn of the century, and Jane Fortune's life has taken an unfortunate downturn. Not only is she 38 years old and perpetually single, but the spending habits of her father and older sister have destroyed the family fortune. Now she must move out of the only home she's ever known — a beautiful brick town house in a prestigious area of Boston. The only thing she's ever cared about is the Fortune Family Foundation, a charity devoted to sparking the careers of budding writers, including Jane's first love, Max, a now famous author and a well-known Lothario. But things just might change as Jane embarks on a quest to save her family — and herself.
5. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Unhappy with their respective lots in life, four English women leave England to go on an Italian holiday. They all come from very different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: they aren't satisfied with their marriages. Holed up in a Wisteria draped castle in the countryside, these women are all going to find common ground with each other on their journey to rediscover hope and love.
6. Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
Alice Vavasor is torn between two men: the staunch gentleman John Grey or her ambitious but violent cousin George. This ambivalence leads her to accept and reject both of their proposals in a short time, and she's slowly growing disgusted with herself over her own actions. In contrast, Alice's friend Lady Glencora, in an effort to prevent the worthless Burgo Fitzgerald from wasting her fortune, has been forced into marriage with the politician Plantagenet Palliser. If you love marriage drama, this book (originally published in 1865) is one in a series of six.
7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Beautiful, witty, sophisticated Lily Bart has it all. She's accepted by "old money," but she's also being courted by the nouveau riche. There's only one problem: she's actually a poor girl with expensive tastes, and as she nears 30, her position is society is growing ever more precarious. Now she's desperate to find a husband and navigate old-school Manhattan society to find her place within it.
8. The Bostonians by Henry James
Originally written as a biting satire of the American feminist movement of the time, The Bostonians has grown into a book that straight up takes a bite out of everyone. The beautiful, inspirational Verena Tarrant is torn between two distant cousins. Boston spinster and feminist Olive Chancellor is bent on turning her cousin into a feminist, and conservative Southern lawyer Basil Ransom is on a mission to steal her heart. Who will Verena choose? You'll have to read to find out!
9. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Though set the American West, the general themes of Pride and Prejudice still ring true in The Song of the Lark. Thea Kronberg is an aspiring singer from Colorado who longs to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House. Talented, independent minded, and strong willed, Thea would get along quite well with Elizabeth Bennett.
10. Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones is committed to losing weight, quitting smoking, and developing inner poise. Meanwhile, her mother is on a perpetual quest to marry Bridget off to whatever rich man is available. In this modern day twist on Pride and Prejudice, Bridget must choose between the playboy Daniel Cleaver and the dreamy Mark Darcy.