Saturday, 30 March 2013

Jane Austen: What is all the fuss about?

I know I'm a little late to the party and March has pretty much been and gone but I'm going to finally do the Classics Club March Meme. Let's crack on shall we.

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).
  1. Why? (for either answer)?
  2. Favourite and/or least favourite Austen novel? 
I hate to be the bringer of a general air of ambivalence but, well, I'm going to bring it because I tend to feel very 'meh' about good old Jane. I can't deny that I love Pride and Prejudice and I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey. I just don't love her unless I'm reading her. I've not read an Austen since my third year of uni and not felt the need to either. I don't re-read P&P every year or swoon over Mr Darcy in my head. I appreciate her novels when they are there in front of me but when they're not, well, I just don't particularly care.

When I'm feeling a bit more pro-Jane, as well as being all serious, go women, social mores and injustices, I think the best thing about her is her sense of humour. There is one bit in Love and Friendship that just gets me every time:

'One fatal swoon has cost me my Life...Beware of swoons, Dear Laura...A frenzy fit is not one quarter so pernicious; it is an exercise to the body and if not too violent, is, I dare say, conducive to health in its consequences - run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint...'

Wise words...

My favourite Austen novel is Persuasion. I mean, come on, Captain Wentworth?! What a babe. Especially in the BBC adaptation. Ciaran Hinds would only have to look at me in that sailor get up with his brooding good looks and I'd be putty in his hands. And I mean fully moldable do-with-me-what-you-like kind of putty. Ahem, anyway, that's slightly off topic. What I'm trying to say is Persuasion is my favourite. There is something so real about the story and about Anne and about the whole circumstance of their relationship. I really think it is generally more believable. Plus it's set partially in Lyme - holla to all those south westerners who used to/still do go fossil hunting there and stand on the cobb like the French Lieutenant's Woman. At least Persuasion teaches you something practical: don't jump off the cobb in Lyme.
oh my...sigh

'Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.'

Oh, Anne. You are a woman after my own heart.

So there we have it, I don't want to beat her with her own anatomy but at the same time I'm not going to rush to make her my bestie should I ever go back in time to the 19thC and meet her. We'd be more casual acquaintances. Friends who do lunch. That sort of thing.

All the same, Sense and Sensibility is on my Classics Club list and I think I might read that one this summer. I look forward to seeing if my opinions will change.



  1. "I just don't love her unless I'm reading her." - I think that's an excellent point. I enjoyed Persuasion a great deal while I was reading it, but somehow it didn't make me feel the urge to run to the bookshop/log in to the online shop and buy her other books. Yet, I think Austen is a good writer.

    But *swoon* French Lieutenant's Woman - now that's a different story :D

    1. I think it takes a certain mood to read her. I appreciate her very much but I just wouldn't go crazy for her.

      But yes, the French Lieutenant's Woman is a very different story!

  2. Persuasion is soooooo underrated. The Letter?! So brilliant I refer to it as though that were its title, like Holmes refers to Irene Adler as The Woman! I mean, how does that not turn the most unaffected reader into a pile of mush?!

    Also swooning over The French Lieutenant's Woman. :)

    1. Wonderfully put! I totally just fished out my copy and read The Letter. It made me go jelly. And from now on I shall be referring to it in capitals.

      It seems we're all swooning away at TFLW!


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