Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).
Why? (for either answer)?
Favorite and/or least favorite Austen novel? – Classics Club March Meme
I love Jane Austen. Here are a few reasons:
- Characters and character development. Most of her lead characters well rounded, flawed, and engaging. Furthermore, they learn things and grow with the progression of the novel.
- Her subtle social commentary especially in regards to gender and societal norms as it applies to Regency England. Even now, I can relate to some of the things she wrote two hundred years ago. Austen understands women and writes about women in an intelligent manner.
- Following up on that, her proto-feminist and strong female protagonists. Elizabeth Bennet rejects two marriage proposals, Elinor Dashwood has sense and is realistic about money, and while Anne Elliot falls prey to other people’s influence at first, she develops her own sense of worth by the end of the novel. Quora has an answer on Austen’s heroines with feminist ideals.
- As a result of her strong female leads, the romances in her books are believable, touching and intelligent. All the couples have realistic conflicts such as timing and misunderstanding, but they overcome them in the end and are better people for it. Emma and Anne both knew their partners when the novel began, but neither would have would have become entangled if they didn’t learn a thing or two in the process.
- Austen’s writing style is witty, humorous, and perceptive. She is immensely rereadable and clever without being heavy. She was a one of the first to use first indirect discourse which is discussed on another Quora answer about what makes her a great author (love Quora).
As for favourites, I’ve enjoyed all of her novels, but Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are the ones I read first and have reread most, followed by Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. I wouldn’t be against rereading Mansfield Park, but I’m not itching for it; I just read it last year. I do think her characters in that lacked the character development that I liked so much in the other novels.
I understand Austen is not everyone’s cup of tea for many a reason, but the above summarizes why I like her. I definitely don’t force her on anyone, but reading her books have been rewarding for me.
Happy March, everyone!
Aww, I love her too for many of the reasons you mentioned. I love what you said… “neither couple would have lived happily ever after if they didn’t learn a thing or two in the process.” It’s so true, which is why Persuasion has always been my favorite. They had to learn what they were missing out on before they could truly appreciate life with each other.
Hi Melissa! I love Persuasion for that reason and how much Anne learns about herself in the whole process. It’s very romantic to me how she knows herself, Wentworth and what it means for them to finally be together in their ‘second chance’. Thanks for the comment! 🙂
Riv @ Bookish Realm
I just finished my first Austen (yes it is a little bit shameful) yesterday – “Persuasion”. I picked that and “Mansfield Park” as Classics Club choices, since they don’t seem to be the obvious favourites of Austen. I very much liked her way with characters and also subtle sense of humour and critique towards the way of life back then. I liked that there was no “goody-goody” character (if anything, majority of them seem very much not likeable, at least in “Persuasion”). Then again, she doesn’t come off as judgmental; simply observing and describing situations and people as they were, and through Anne, even trying to make us understand their motives. At first I was a bit put off about Wentworth’s (what an awesome name, too) pride, but then I figured it was understandable as his feelings had been hurt on such a deep level. And he did redeem himself in the end.
Hi Riv! Congratulations on your first Austen! “Persuasion” is a favourite with a lot of Austenites that I know and it’s a decidedly different romance that most people are use to. Austen has many unlikable characters and a few times you become annoyed with the lead yourself, but she does do it without judgment. It is sometimes that the characters are a product of their times and/or that they are just people who make mistakes. I also really like the names of her male leads: Wentworth, Darcy, Tilney, Knightley. She does know how to write a romance. I hope you enjoy Mansfield Park and pick up all the other Austen novels too. Have a great weekend!
I love Jane Austen too! My answer to this meme question will be posted on Wednesday 🙂
Looking forward to it, Jessica!
Adam @ Roof Beam Reader
I’m definitely a fan, too, and I agree with you about a few things. I love that her best characters are the ones who are believably and naturally flawed (yet still praise-worthy, perhaps moreso because of their flaws and what they must do to overcome them).
I also agree that she’s got a brilliant wit and sharp sense of humor, and that her prose is magnificent, particularly in middle and later works. Her ability to construct a story and to navigate it seamlessly through time is incredible.
Hi Adam! Characterization is hallmark for great novels, and I enjoy her characters because they are real and praise-worthy as you say. They are the ones which grow and develop. She is an incredible writer, and it’s good to know we have received so much pleasure from her works. Have a good day!
I also love how she not only improves with each re-reading. It’s almost like she designed her books to be read umpteen dozen times to get the full effect!
Hi Brona! All good authors and book improve on rereads. We ourselves change as well, but Austen puts so many little details. It’s like a good friend we always return to it and learn about each time. Thanks for commenting!