I Just Don't Get This Love Affair with Jane Austen's Novels

ritaweeda

I love watching most British entertainment, whether it's a TV show on PBS or a series, a movie, and of course I've read many of the great British classics. But I cannot understand how anyone ever got through a Jane Austen novel without hurling the book through the nearest window. Well, maybe way back in the early 1800's but now now. I just don't get it. I understand that it was a different time and women were expected to behave and think in a different way about romance but the thoughts of sitting and reading for hours these tedious pages makes me crazy. I tried to read Pride and Prejudice. I'd read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and loved those stories and was told I HAD to read Pride and Prejudice. I struggled through maybe 2 chapters and finally flung it aside. So now the movie has come out of her novel "Emma" and it's getting raves. I'll have to wait and see but I won't be spending money to go see it. If it appears on a streaming site I might try it. I've had to struggle to watch the movie versions of her other books, don't know if this one will be different. Anyone out there who completely disagrees??

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aok27502

I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice a few years ago. I tried reading Sense and Sensibility, but I couldn't get through it. I haven't seen any of the movies, and probably won't.

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Elizabeth

I slogged through them. Not my cup of tea.

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nickel_kg

I found them more enjoyable than most of the reading assigned in high school. I even read a few of them voluntarily -- they provide an interesting window into a different time.

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Uptown Gal

For a complete fun "version"....have you tried this one?

"Lost in Austen". Haven't

read the book (if there is one). Jane Austen would most probably

not recommend this. ;) (nor would my stuffy English Lit Prof).


https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1117666/

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Bookwoman

I like Austen well enough, and think Emma is her best. But she can be tiresome to read. You have to be in the right mood, I find.

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bpath reads banned books too

Oh, thank you, I feel less alone! People are always surprised that I don’t read Austen, but I find it such a slog.

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sjerin

I did love the Austen novels I read--I think Nickel said it best for me. I'm excited to see the movie because we were lucky enough to see the village where it was filmed, last fall.

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colleenoz

I've read about everything Austen wrote, including a lot of unpublished and obscure works. I love it all, though I didn't when I was much, much younger. Her work is actually an insightful commentary with a wicked sense of humour about the society of her times. She pokes fun at convention very slyly.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm with the Austen fans, without a doubt. I find them very easy to get involved in, enjoying every minute. But I do understand that she and other authors like her are not for everyone, however.

Emma is one of those books that I re-read every few years, just to fall in love with the language all over again.

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blfenton

Nope, tried a couple and not interested.

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maire_cate

Most of my friends prefer current fiction, but for some reason I tend to pick historical lit (although I don't care for Emma).

I think I've read them all - in high school and college and for now for pleasure. I'm not a 'Janeite' but I think she is a wonderful writer. I love her wit and irony and her ability to skewer 'society' or delineate a character with just a few words. I often find myself jotting down phrases or sentences that seem to pop off the page. My favorite is Persuasion, probably because the main character is a slightly older (27) heroine who was persuaded to break off her engagement to a naval officer on the advice of her family. Then 7 years later they meet again....

I found this and thought it quite clever - it's "Every Jane Austen novel, summed up in one sentence."

https://www.sparknotes.com/blog/every-jane-austen-novel-summed-up-in-a-single-sentence/

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Mrs. S

I almost cannot believe you posted this. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, because just this morning I complained to a friend about Pride and Prejudice.

Son is reading for an English class, and struggling a bit with it, so I decided to read it. What smarmy crap I found it! I have so many complaints about it, and about a modern day English teacher teaching it, that I have been considering leaving an Amazon review just to get it all off my chest!

Maybe this is my chance!

1. Why anyone would enjoy a book that's supposed to be "romantic" about historical female subjugation, discrimination and appalling treatment is... not my style. I can't imagine a class teaching a book glorifying the days of slaves, so why is it ok to glorify the subjugation and humiliation of women? Why is it ok? Why celebrate all this today?

2. It did illustrate for me clearly the class system that the U.S. forefathers tried so hard to leave behind. Wow, the goal was to marry rich so that no one in the family has to actually WORK for a living! Nice. I am SO glad that I live in a time and place where work feels important and is commendable. Can't explain it, but I do.

3. The value placed on gossip! Gossip was the currency of their small town, I guess, but it's hard to believe how judgmental the recipients of the gossip were towards its victims. Even today, if someone mentions something about someone I know, or a celebrity, my first thought is wonder if it's true, and that it very well might not be. But these folks make life choices without ascertaining facts. I find it hard to understand.

4. Lydia is the most interesting character in the whole book, yet almost nothing is said of her, and nothing nice. Come on, folks! For sheer drama, she takes the prize! Hahaha, the tales about where she'd been and especially how confident she was about it made me actually laugh.

5. Surrounded by hired help and servants, they are barely mentioned in the story. How do they survive? Were the Bennetts' servants as well treated as those of certain other characters?

I did find the father funny, and enjoyed his character.

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patriciae_gw

I am practically a Janeite. I have read all her works including the Juvenilia and many books about her works. Her style of writing is remarkable for the day it was written in-clean, spare and sometime brutally honest but that is compared to the florid circuitous prose of her day. The versions done for movies and TV are generally cobbled things done up to make them sexy and flashy. This latest version of Emma is going to be a doozy.

If you want to understand the books you first have to set aside the delusion that they are romances which they are not. They are life stories with romances in them but the primary emotion is quiet desperation. Women had virtually no options in those days and women of the gentry had fewer than the poor. You had to find a husband and somehow get your family to cough up some money so that person could afford to marry you and how do you do that in a limited neighborhood of eligible men? The stories of Jane Austen's nieces could break your heart. Her brother adopted by wealthy relatives neglected to set aside money from his very considerable income to make up dowries for his daughters. Sound familiar? P&P but she wrote the book before he fecklessly followed the same path because it was that common for it to happen. Good luck if your father died and you had to rely on a brother to fund your life. He would have immediate family of his own. Read her books like they are history and they are about real people.

And Marie, Persuasion is also my favorite. Emma is my least favorite because I find it so embarrassing to read since I see her as a real person. The stories of the Bates and Jane Fairfax should trouble you if you see them as real depictions of what happens to excess women.


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maire_cate

I have the same embarrassed reaction to Emma and her nonchalant meddling in the lives of others. This latest adaption has received some very positive reviews so I will probably see it - but even a mediocre version can be enjoyed for the costumes, villages and homes.


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jakkom

I pick and choose. I adore Pride & Prejudice, but can't stand Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, etc. I did, however, very much enjoy the only short story of hers, Lady Susan. Delightfully acerbic!

As patriciae_gw points out, you need to keep in mind the times. Don't forget that 30 years after Austen, the Bronte sisters were writing their romantic melodramas - Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and other over-the-top Gothics that are also considered "classics".

I don't personally care for Fielding's "Tom Jones" or Charles Dickens "David Copperfield" - BUT they are, like Austen, a window into their times.

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patriciae_gw

jakkom, true Gothic was the 18th century and her Northanger Abby was a parody of that literature. But you are of course right, you cant beat early Victorians for literary embellishment. I have read a lot of this stuff and enjoyed it for what it is. Actually Jane Austen stands out in her time. Maria Edgeworth and Fanny Burney wrote the over wrought or worse and she was an admirer of their work but by comparison her work was spare. We don't see it today because we hardly know her competitors. No one then would believe they have been forgotten.

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sealavender

Going off on a bit of a tangent, did anyone watch Masterpiece Theatre's Sanditon? I had a hard time not seeing the Denham siblings as Riff Raff and Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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colleenoz

Mrs S, if you don’t think the US has a class system based on money, you cannot be very observant. In the US, money clearly gives status to its possessors, even when those possessors have little else to offer the community at large.

The servants aren’t mentioned because generally their doings don’t advance the story. Modern novels rarely go in depth on the bus drivers, check out staff, wait staff etc that the central characters interact with unless it’s germane to the story. Rich households generally supported a large number of servants, who in a time of no welfare and limited charitable institutions, might otherwise have been homeless and starving.

Even rich women worked to a greater or lesser extent. Most ran their households, planning menus, purchasing food and other supplies, directing the servants in extra duties according to the season, nursing sick members of an often extended family. They were also expected to take an interest in the community at large, visiting the sick and elderly poor and bringing them food and medicines, providing extras for the “ragged schools” and setting a good example for others. Less well off women also did all the family sewing and other tasks.

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patriciae_gw

Speaking of sewing, when reading a book of the time and work is referenced it means sewing, it was such a big part of the life of women.

I thought about Sanditon as well. There are only eleven or twelve (depending on how you are counting) very rough chapters that establish the main characters. They end about the point that Sidney is mentioned. This version is similar to other versions I have read in the appallingly sexed up scenarios. I don't know why this scrap of book brings that out in people. I wanted them to put up Charlottes hair, get rid of the jewels on the girls (you might as well brand an H on your forehead as wear diamonds like Miss Lamb or other jewels as Miss Denham did) Austen wrote another partial book called The Watsons. It is the story of seriously poor sisters with a dying vicar father. Depressing. I cant imagine how she was going to make that work.

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laceyvail 6A, WV

I'm a voracious reader and I too detested Pride and Prejudice when I read it. I found the women absolute ninnies. But I do understand the force of the society that makes women have to marry for money. Both Henry James --hard going and demanding reading--and Edith Wharton--not such demanding reading--write brilliantly about the same types of society, somewhat later in time--cruel with gossip, poor (but aristocratic or genteel) women desperately trying to marry for money when there were simply no other options. I adore Edith Wharton's novels but can't stand Jane Austen.

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salonva

I can share that to my recollection, I have only read Pride and Prejudice (in high school) and then Persuasion (recently- for a book club).I haven't seen any movies either.

I did not care for P and P back in high school, but I did very much enjoy Persuasion. I particularly appreciated the whole take me back to a totally different era and the way daily life was so much slower. Yes she is wordy, but I was absorbed in the words. I didn't jot down phrases like Maire but I was tempted !

I just realized that I have only read her books which start with P ; maybe there are no more?


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patriciae_gw

Austens work in her day were considered to be very life like, too much so in some cases as some people wanted romance. The Prince of Wales loved her books.

When you appreciate later novelists you have to give credit to her for inventing that sort of literature. She was not some sort of literary lion, knowing absolutely none of the literary people of her day. She did what she did out of her own head. It is hard for people today to appreciate what that meant since the difference in her writing style is not obvious to us today.

For those who think her characters ninnies, women were required to Act like ninnies. She even has a lovely quote in Northanger Abby about the very point. That a sensible man does not require that his wife be an actual fool, just sound like one. Women still shouldn't seem to be too bright. I was taught that boys don't like "smart" girls.

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jakkom

>>Women still shouldn't seem to be too bright. I was taught that boys don't like "smart" girls.>>

Yes, look at the Hollywood love for the "dumb blonde". "Emma" turns into Alicia Silverstone in 1995's "Clueless". Even Hermione Grange in the Potterverse was criticized by her fellow students as obnoxious because she was bright and diligent in her studies.

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