Journey to Jane




How did you fall in love with Jane Austen?

Probably all of you reading this are in love with Austen or you wouldn’t be on this site. (Although there might be a few newbies!!) What was it that first drew you to her? Did you have a first encounter that, like Elizabeth and Darcy, you misunderstood and created an irrational dislike? Or have you been in love with her as long as you can remember, like Fanny with Edmund?

I first encountered Austen in sixth grade, when a friend of my mom noticed that I loved to read (like, all the time!) and wanted to encourage me to do it even more. She gave me a copy of Pride and Prejudice, small print, with annotations and footnotes.

I read it all in one week, loved it, and immediately came back for more.

Ha ha! That’s not what happened at all! At the time I was into things like Laura Ingalls and the Little House series, along with whatever I could get my hands on from the Scholastic Book Fairs. Champion Dog Prince Tom was a favorite, along with Misty of Chincoteague. I vaguely recall being engrossed with some kind of stone age fiction about a man named Hawk when mom’s friend handed me Jane Austen’s most famous novel. My tastes were not, shall we say, sophisticated.

So when I first began to read the trials of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters I just wasn’t ready for it. I read the first few chapters but I was not up for the lengthy sentences and advanced vocabulary. I put it back on my bookshelf and went back to Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West.

But even then, something stuck. Perhaps even then I picked up on the subtle witticism and the strong characters. Or maybe I simply couldn’t bear to admit defeat, or the idea of actually throwing away a book. For whatever reason I kept the book around and in the summer between eighth and ninth grade I began reading it in earnest. I slogged my way through the strange customs of Austen’s time, figuring out that Miss Bennet and Jane were the same person, realizing even then how silly Collins was and that the same female snobs in my high school had been around centuries earlier in the form of Miss Bingley.

Then came Darcy’s first proposal. And Elizabeth’s rejection. And his letter. And me realizing, along with Elizabeth, that she had made a huge mistake.

From then on I couldn’t put the book down. It didn’t matter that I didn’t fully understand what a living was, or why Lydia had to get married instead of just coming home. I had no idea what Wickham’s commission was. This was long before the internet was a thing, so I couldn’t even look it up. But it didn’t matter.  I *knew* that Darcy was still in love with Elizabeth and I hoped and prayed he would be brave enough to approach her again. I stayed up until the wee hours one warm summer night, walking with Elizabeth and Darcy to Oakham Mount, praying that Kitty would make herself scarce, falling in love with Darcy when he declared himself again. I laughed and rejoiced with Lizzy as she broke the news to her family and sighed in delight when she and Darcy were finally married and safe at Pemberley. When I closed the book I was too excited and happy to sleep for a long time.

A couple of years later I read Sense and Sensibility, and eventually I made it through all six of Austen’s major works. Persuasion was a delight, but nothing ever came close to creating the feelings and enjoyment that Pride and Prejudice did.

How about you? What first got you into Jane Austen, and which of her novels is your favorite? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know!

15 responses to “Journey to Jane”

  1. Glynis Avatar

    I’ve always loved reading and as a child I ‘borrowed’ my two brothers’ library cards along with my own so I could read more books! I remember picking What Katy Did as a Sunday School prize and the following year (I was about 14) I picked Pride and Prejudice! I loved it and read it a few times but it was a good few years before I read any of the others. I was in a book club and eventually treated myself to a leather bound anthology of her 6 books. I must say that I’m not a fan of Mansfield Park! I also probably wouldn’t read Northanger Abbey again. I’ve watched several productions of the others including the new Persuasion but my favourite by a mile is P&P. I’ve watched the 1995 and the 2005 versions zillions of times and now my reading mostly consists of stories based on Darcy and Elizabeth:)

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      It’s funny what we latch onto! I laugh out loud at NA and have come to appreciate Fanny more and more as an adult than I ever did as a kid. But everyone loves P&P.

  2. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    I was crippled as a child and whip-smart (or so everyone said) for I was in college at 15 (could have been earlier but in the 1950s and early 60s, 15 was the supposed mark). Anyway, I read all the time. My mother read all the time. I grew up reading everything from cereal boxes to the classics. As to Austen, I first read Emma. I adored Knightley, but Emma, not so much. Something about her meddling just did not sit well with me. Then, I met Elizabeth and Darcy, and, although I read all of Austen’s tales, not in a row, but over a period of time, it was Pride and Prejudice to which I returned time and time again.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      I have never been a fan of Emma, sadly, mostly because of Emma’s immaturity. She’s hard to relate to.
      I did not know that about you as a child! And you still went on to excel in martial arts! Wow!!!

  3. Maria Lucia Riccioli Avatar

    I fell jn love with Jane’s book during my first or second year at University.
    I’ve always read whatever I could buy – a few. Thank you paperbacks, books sold with newspapers, libraries… – or borrow.
    Pride and Prejudice was my first Austen book. Point set at first sight.
    What a character – Lizzy, role model! , such a lovely story without stereotypes typically present in romances… and irony, style, wit!
    One by one I collected all the other novels. A joy, pure enchantment.
    The movies and series… the music.
    With Donatella Motta, a pianist, I arranged a sort of play to tell Austen heroines and I sang the songs of soundtracks… I write fanfiction and I would love to write e novel or a childbook on Austen world.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      You should give it a try! I bet you’d love it.

  4. Riana Everly Avatar

    My first Austen was Emma. My father had a copy and he gave it to me when I was 11, since he thought Nancy Drew wasn’t sophisticated enough for me. (Seriously? If a kid is reading ANYTHING, cheer them on. But I digress.) I read Emma and I probably understood about 1/3 of it, since I was only 11. In high school, we read NA and P&P, and Darcy’s first proposal absolutely floored me. And I was hooked.
    I’ve now read all her novels several times each, but I think my favourite is Persuasion.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      I had to laugh about the Nancy Drew books, because I read as many of those as I could too! Of Austen’s novels, Persuasion is my second favorite.

  5. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    My favorite is probably Pride and Prejudice. I love Lizzie’s independence and headstrong nature!lol I like Persuasion too. I first read P+P after seeing the movie with Keira Knightley. I adored it and it prompted me to read the book and as they say I got hooked.I think all her books are good in their own way but I guess we all have our favorites too!

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      No doubt they are all good, but I think we tend to pick the stories where we can relate to the heroine the best. I wonder what Austen’s books would have been like if she had written with male protagonists!!!

  6. Avatar

    I read a Readers’ Digest version of P&P when I was in my early teens. It made no impression. I cried buckets when Beth died in Little Women, but Darcy, nothing. then came P&P ’95. I have always been a sucker for period dramas and that one stuck. I reread P&P. But the real swan dive into Austen came when we got on the interwebs and I found Pemberley dot com, and watched the Root/Hinds version of Persuasion. Decades later I’m still plugging away.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      Little Women! Another favorite of mine as a child. At least that one has some literary oomph! 🙂 Yes, decades later I’m still finding things to appreciate in every Austen novel.

  7. Bronwen Chisholm Avatar

    I love hearing these stories. I have always been an avid reader but somehow did not read Austen until later in life. This is weird because I read all of Louisa May Alcott and the Bronte sisters as well as some of the ones others have mentioned (Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder, etc.) not to mention that my mom had a copy of P&P which I found after she passed.

    Around age 40, my 25 year old office mate mentioned the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice. When I admitted I had not seen it or read the book, she was stunned. The next morning the VHS tapes were on my desk when I arrived. (Ooh, did I just date myself.) After watching it over the weekend, the two of us walked downstairs to the library (so convenient) and I checked out the book. A few days later I checked out Sense & Sensibility and so on. When Emma was not available, I stopped at the book store on the way home and bought it. That was the only Austen book I didn’t finish right away – Emma annoyed me too much. lol Like so many others, P&P remains my favorite with Persuasion second, and all my variations include the P&P characters.

    Thanks, Elaine, for getting everyone to share their stories!

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      You’re welcome! Yes, reading these stories has been a pleasure!!!

  8. Nancy Avatar

    I’m late to this party, but I was also late to Jane Austen. When I was in high school the classics like these were out of fashion and most reading was dreadful contemporary novels. I did read constantly and had devoured Louisa May Alcott’s books and such, but totally missed Jane Austen. Fast forward 25 years or so and my son, a college theatre student, landed the part of Darcy in the school’s production of P&P. So I grabbed the book and read it for the first time as a mature adult. It wasn’t easy as I had never seen her style of writing, and to be truthful, I’ve never completed any others of her works. But I enjoyed P&P and my son was a fantastic Darcy! About that same time I met Elaine…..and the rest is history.

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