“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that Jane Austen’s works are must-reads. Not because of the stories themselves, but because of Austen’s genius and the way she explores the human mind. There is so much depth in her narratives, and her style of writing is so brilliant that I just had to read all her officially published novels (Persuasion was the final one for me). I know, there are thousands of pages devoted to Jane Austen’s oeuvre, and this is not an academic article. It’s an ordinary blog post and I’ll only share my humble experience and why I like Jane Austen so much. She is too talented a writer to be left out so I just can’t do such injustice to my Books section.
OK, what if you’re not keen on tales about love, marriages, and ladies in beautiful gowns? Then read Pride and Prejudice and stop here. That was my first intention, too. You know, sometimes we read authors because we are told to do so (remember the long to-read lists at school and university?). In my case, it was pure curiosity. I was quite sure I wouldn’t like the book. As a matter of fact, I needed some courage for I thought it to be a difficult read (the same with The Count of Monte Cristo as I’ve mentioned before). It probably is, compared to contemporary women’s fiction. But it’s not a women-fiction thing, it’s a masterpiece in world literature. Well, The Great Gatsby is also said to be a masterpiece, and some people don’t like it (relax, I’m not one of them 🙂 ). Still, there should be a reason for such works to be praised by generations of readers and literary critics.
So why didn’t I stop with Pride and Prejudice? I got even more curious to find out what the other novels would be like. I must confess, such interest never happened after a work by Virginia Woolf or D.H. Lawrence, for example, although I appreciate their style. I guess, they are too experimental to my taste. But why did I keep reading Jane Austen since her novels were pretty much similar in subject matter and had quite a predictable finale (after a number of obstacles or misunderstandings, in the end, they happily married)? That’s why:
- Magnificent writing style – narratives so masterly written; every single word seems to be in its right place.
- A pinch of irony – I love Austen’s delicate irony. It’s hardly tangible, and yet always there.
- Beauty – everywhere. Beautiful ladies, beautiful clothes and hats, beautiful mansions and landscapes. If you read Wordsworth Editions, you can even enjoy some drawings. Is there a woman who is not fascinated by the fashion of Austen’s age?
- The conversations – they are long, elaborate and even pompous; the characters’ language and manners are so refined and sophisticated. One could wonder if they really did use such a magniloquent style in the 18th century. And why on earth do they talk that incessantly, all the time, with so many words? However, this is not a needless jabbering and a true book lover would undoubtedly see it. Austen’s conversations are much more profound and meaningful. And sometimes quite amusing, too.
- The hidden power of women – and it has nothing to do with contemporary women’s fervent pursuit of gender equality. Jane Austen proves that women have always been far more influential than social order defines them. Domineering like Emma Woodhouse (Emma) or obedient like Anne Elliot (Persuasion), they have so much unsuspected influence over men, family relations, and society.
Do you have Jane Austen’s novels on your bookshelves? Please, do, one title at least. Your home library deserves it. But first, read the book. It’s worth it, every single page.
Happy reading! 🙂