There's certainly a cult following when it comes to Jane Austen, as can be seen by the dozens of film adaptions of her novels, the countless fan pages on social media, and the spin-off books that were written by modern writers as sequels to her original masterpieces. I definitely understand this cult following and may or may not belong to some of the aforementioned fan pages. However, not everybody has had the opportunity to fall in love with her literature so I've written today's blog as an Austen 101 of sorts.
We begin by exploring the author and her writing style. Most famous for her six novels, Jane Austen lived and wrote in early 19th century England, growing up as a gentleman's daughter. In her writings, Austen vividly painted characters who show colorful, realistic human traits. Her ability to make you squirm with discomfort as the characters behave improperly is both poignant and true to life. What is so incredible about her writing though, is the fact that all of her stories are told from the perspective of a young woman in the landed-gentry class, a perspective quite familiar to Austen herself. Despite the narrow lens through which you see Austen's world, you're able to draw big conclusions about the society of her times. Her works compellingly explore the roles of marriage, wealth, women, manners, virtue, hypocrisy, Romanticism, and more.
Now, I could write a whole book on Austen's novels, but I wouldn't do her justice and know most of you wouldn't take the time to read it (which would probably be for the best). However, my first suggestion is that you do read all of her novels; it's definitely worth the time investment. But if that's not your thing, I have a back up plan. As a producer of the Novel Conversations podcast, I encourage you to listen to our succinct summaries of her stories. This podcast is basically the audio-best-friend of Cliffs Notes, and it only takes about 35 minutes to listen to each podcast. The best news for you? We've covered (pun intended) all of Jane Austen's beloved novels and compiled them for you here.
Year of Publication: 1811
Year of Publication: 1813
Plot: Pride and Prejudice follows the lives of the Bennet family. With 5 unwed daughters, Mrs. Bennet has only one thing on her mind: marriage. Closely following the romances of the eldest daughters, we see the impact that both pride and prejudice have on a relationship.
Year of Publication: 1814
Plot: Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price, a young girl whose overburdened and impoverished family sends her to live in the household of her wealthy aunt and uncle at the age of ten. As Fanny grows up, she must learn how to cope with the hypocrisy of wealthy socialites as she searches for a husband.
Year of Publication: 1815
Plot: Through Emma, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women in Regency England, creating a lively comedy of manners highlighting the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives.
Year of Publication: 1818
Plot: Northanger Abbey tells the story of Catherine Morland, a young girl whose imagination is fueled by her love of gothic novels. As Catherine travels to an old home with friends, she struggles to discern reality in the midst of her Romantic fancies.
Year of Publication: 1818
Plot: Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old gentlewoman on the cusp of becoming an old spinster. As her family navigates the difficulties of reducing their financial spending, Anne navigates her own romantic adventures with a relation of her family’s new tenants.
I hope you'll give Jane Austen a chance, even if it's only through the podcasts. Maybe they'll encourage you to pick up the books! If you do, be sure to leave a review on iTunes or send me your thoughts on the Novel Conversations' Facebook and Twitter pages.