Of all the authors that I adore…first amongst them is my most beloved Jane Austen.
For years growing up I tried and tried with her books (I didn’t actually study any of them while I was at school) but whenever I had tried reading them, I found I just couldn’t get in to them…and then, when I was in my very late twenties (so late I think I was more like 31) I tried Sense and Sensibility and fell head over heels in love with her writing and the wonderful Elinor Dashwood….. actually in all the Jane Austen books it’s the women I love more than the men, even the silly Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey wins me over more than the hero Henry Tilney.
If I had to really chose, then my favourite book by her would be Persuasion, the main character of Jane Elliot is just so beautifully written, if I could have any friend from literature then it would be her (hmmm along with Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and perhaps Jilly Coppercorn from the Charles de Lint books)…poor Jane Elliot, her family are truly truly awful…really horrible. There is a television version with Anthony Stuart Head (Giles from Buffy) and he’s pretty good as her pompous snobby father, but he is even worse in the book, and her sisters make me laugh out loud every time I read about them.
One of the things I love about Jane Austen is she wrote about some of the most bitchily horrible women possible, I think you’d have to go a long way to read about someone worse than Fanny Dashwood and her mother Mrs Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility), Caroline Bingley and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice) and Aunt Norris (Mansfield Park)………even Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice is pretty terrible and comes out with the most dreadful things…she’s not bitch, just head shakingly terrible.
Jane Austen is an incredibly humorous writer, there are huge passages in many of her books that make me laugh out loud with huge guffaws……and then there are passages which are so full of sadness and despair that I end up with tears running down my face and feeling my heart will break for the distress these characters are feeling.
A very close second to Persuasion would be Sense and Sensibility, each time I read it I end up sobbing my heart out for the frustrations of poor Elinor Dashwood, and like Jane Elliot, she has a difficult family to deal with (to be fair her family is actually a lot nicer but causes her upsets for different reasons)…..the things Mrs Ferrars (her brother’s mother-in-law) says to her are just incredibly rude and horrible and each time I read them I’d love to reach into the book and slap her face because she is so so horrid. But it is Lucy Steele who I probably get more cross with when I’m reading it, when she has her “little confidences” with Elinor, I hate her, she’s just awful…….
Apart from some wonderfully written dreadful females, Jane Austen writes wonderful dialogue and very female situations, each book has made me both laugh out loud and wipe my eyes, but also make my heart ache for the characters. If you’ve not read any Jane Austen then Sense and Sensibility is a great first book to try.
BBC produces, in my opinion, the very best adaptations of her books, their Sense and Sensibilty with Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood was so good, the scene at the end where she is wearing a pinny and baking makes my eyes tear up just thinking about it….. the costumes and scenery and wonderful acting make it a total treat for the eyes. (there is also a small posh and podgy child, dressed in velvet stuffing his face with chips which is so funny)
BBC also filmed an adaptation of Emma with Jonny Lee Miller as George Knightley and Romola Garai as Emma (she was perfect, exactly as I had imagined her when I’d read it) and Tamsin Greig was Miss Bates who is one of my most favourite characters of all time (maybe because she reminds me a lot of myself….I am a great chatterer of nonsense and such like)……
I never get bored of reading Jane Austen, I was a long time coming to her but now I can’t imagine a life without her books.