Since my first introduction to Jane Austen’s writing in 2005, I have been a devoted– dare I say, obsessed- fan. Her works have defined my life, and even my career, in a very real way, and I can honestly say that she is my favorite author.
A friend asked me recently, what is it exactly that I love about Jane Austen so much? Therefore, I have attempted to put into words the top ten reasons I love Austen’s books. Maybe you can relate to some of these.
10. The Picturesque settings
Every one of the books spends a significant portion of the story at beautiful countryside estates, by the seaside, or at a resort town. Certainly, the numerous film and miniseries adaptations have helped me to visualize these settings further, but even without them, Austen’s own descriptions of the beauties of Pemberley’s woods, the richness of Mansfield Park, or the cliffs along the Cobb, evoke such profound scenic images in my mind, I cannot help but feel I am right there along with the characters, enjoying the beauty of England.
9. The (relatively) light themes
While Austen’s contemporaries wrote about characters with secret insane wives in their attics and distraught lovers bent on revenge, Austen’s stories remain relatively lighthearted. Yes, we see Fanny Price mistreated by her relatives and innocent girls preyed upon by rakes, but overall, the stories focus not on war or revenge, trauma or tragedy, but on everyday life. The plights and perils of young women making their way in the world, navigating family, friendships and society, searching for happiness and love, and after a little trouble, gaining all that they desire. Even Catherine Moreland, whose flights of fancy lead her to imagine all sorts of horrid things, discovers that the mysterious locked chest only contained lists and bills and that the general, cruel though he may be, could not have murdered his wife (although I will take any fanfiction that proves otherwise!).
8. The morals
The wicked never go unpunished. The foolish are forced to live with the consequences of their foolishness. And the immoral, even if they get away with it, are condemned for their bad behavior, and usually suffer some consequences as a result. By contrast, good is rewarded, and those who are wise usually receive commendation for it in some form or fashion.
7. The wit
Jane was an absolute master at slaying with her sarcasm. Such gems are sprinkled throughout her works. Mr. Bennet’s deadpan responses to his wife’s poor nerves, for instance:
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”
Or this naughty line from Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park: “Certainly, my home at my uncle’s brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.”
Sure, Mary. Sure, you didn’t mean to make a dirty joke. 😉
The more times I read her works, the more humorous I find it as the sarcasm and innuendos become more obvious.
6. The timelessness
These stories may be over 200 years old, but they still feel relevant. Society may have changed, but mankind hasn’t changed all that much. We still know the struggles of misjudging the people around us, of seeing our crush together with somebody else, of being mistreated or tricked by people we thought were our friends, or making a poorly timed joke at someone else’s expense and being reprimanded for it.
5. The romance
Anyone who says that Austen’s works are purely social commentaries ignores the fact that every one of her stories revolves around a female protagonist finding love by the end. Trials, heartaches, misunderstandings, circumstances, and the protagonist’s own blindness can all prove as obstacles, but in the end, love prevails.
4. The window into the past
Austen wrote about what she knew. What we see as a historical setting was, for her, a contemporary one. Reading the stories in the setting of Austen’s own time and place gives us a glimpse into the way that people of Jane Austen’s own class would have lived and acted and how she herself experienced the world around her.
3. The characters
Each a unique specimen of the author’s creation, each forever living in the pages of the books and our imaginations. The witty but prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet. The proud, shy Mr. Darcy. The haughty but well-meaning Emma Woodhouse. The over dramatic romantic Marianne Dashwood. The ridiculous caricatures of Mr. Collins, Sir Walter Elliot, or Miss Bates. Over time, they become as dear to us as friends. Probably the reason why we love to re-read her books over and over, and why we love to see these characters appear again and again in every possible universe of fan fiction. Even the characters that we loathe (I’m looking at you, Thorpe siblings!), we wouldn’t trade for anything, for without them, our protagonists and their friends and lovers would face no obstacles and the stories would be rather dull by comparison.
2. The sheer brilliance
Every one of her novels involves some plot twist that the reader never saw coming. The truth about Louisa Musgrove’s engagement, Mr. Wickham’s character, Frank Churchill’s secret, Lucy Steele’s marriage, or Mr. Elliot’s motives come as a shock to us because it’s the last thing we ever expected would happen. Even on a re-read, when I KNOW what’s coming, I still feel like the pivotal twist is brilliantly executed and brings the story to a satisfying resolution.
1. Mr. Darcy
Let’s face it. He’s probably the number one reason I fell in love with Austen’s works in the first place! He’s the epitome of a romantic hero, in my humble opinion. Who else says lines like, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”? Or, “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”? Swoon! I always tell unmarried ladies to “hold out for a Mr. Darcy- don’t settle for a Mr. Wickham”. Although truth be told, a lady would do equally well with a Mr. Knightley, Mr. Tilney, Colonel Brandon, Mr. Ferrars, Captain Wentworth, or Edmund Bertram.
What are some of the reasons you love Jane Austen? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.
On Valentine’s Day, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised to receive a card from a mysterious sender. This marks the start of an ongoing correspondence between her and her secret admirer. But what will she do when she learns that the man she has been writing to is none other than the man she despises most? And what will happen when she realizes that she no longer hates him, but has fallen in love with him? A sweet variation on Pride and Prejudice sure to make your heart melt.
Check out all the books in The Other Paths Series, a collection of standalone Pride and Prejudice variations by Amanda Kai