Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a book-related prompt for book bloggers to answer. This week’s prompt is Top Ten Reasons I Love Jane Austen
I don’t really make it a secret that I’m obsessed with Jane Austen – I adore her novels. I own multiple copies of her works. I’ve played Mary Bennet in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Lucy Steele in a production of Sense and Sensibility. I’m known amongst my friends as ‘the Austen girl.’ I really regret nothing about living the Austen fangirl life, and yet I feel like she gets written off as an Georgian rom-com writer. So, I am here to spread the love:
- She is one of the greatest social critics of her time, and does it quite wittily. She makes fun of people who deserve to be made fun of, but never those whose circumstances make them pitiable. Take this quote from Persuasion, for example:
“He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him ‘poor Richard,’ been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.”
- She has carefully crafted her novels and if you’re reading them for the first time, the plot twists will completely surprise you. The best example of this is Emma, which is so brilliantly constructed, I wish I could read it for the first time again.
- … and her writing is seamless. If you’re reading Austen for the first time, it is a little difficult to get into the rhythm of her writing, but her prose is lovely. Take the opening line from Pride and Prejudice, which is considered to be one of the best opening lines in English literature:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
- She has created leading ladies who are all very different from one another, but each character’s expression or experience of womanhood is no less valid than the others – there’s Emma Woodhouse, who is so rich she is in a position to declare that she will never marry without judgement (this is 19th century England, afterall); Fanny Price, whose family is so poor she was sent off to live with her wealthy relatives and is dependent on them for everything; Lizzy Bennet who, while a gentleman’s daughter, is also one of five sisters, and her parents hope she will marry well to relieve some of the economic strain on the family. All of these women are vividly imagined and dance off the page; you feel for them and go on their journeys with them and they feel like friends by the end of the novel.
- The characters are still relevant – even though they were written ~200 years ago, they don’t feel dated at all. Their stories still feel like they could happen today (The Austen Project tries their best) and the themes are still relevant today as they were when the books were first published.
- … and yet, it lets you peek into the Georgian era – the social customs, the fashion, the past times, even the language. I love watching (and performing in!) Austen adaptations, mostly because of the fashion. I love a good empire waistline and complicated braid.
- Technically speaking, she is a brilliant writer and played a huge role in inventing what we call the modern novel. Austen casually subverted all the established rules and genres of the period, and wrote brilliantly about what she knew.
- The only author who is remotely as influential as Austen is Shakespeare, which says a lot about how much she has influenced modern lit.
- She is literary comfort food – all carriages and ballgowns and romance.
- All of her heroines go on these personal journeys, and they eventually get their happy endings! I know a lot of people complain that her heroines’ romantic interests are never as developed as the heroines, but I think it’s because the romance is the payoff for the heroines, not the main point of the novel. Austen’s novels are all about growth and personal journey, and I enjoy them all the more for that.