Jane Austen and Me
This post is part of the Austen in August event hosted by Roofbeam Reader. Participating in this event, I’m going to tell a little story.
The first Jane Austen book I read was in 2010. Growing up in the Netherlands means that I wasn’t familiar with most of the English classics, but ever since joining Goodreads those tasty bits of world literature started calling my name. One of the most-loved writers seemed to be Jane, who came highly recommended by almost everyone. I got my hands on a beautiful box set of Jane’s works, and I started with Emma.
At the time I was only 16, and was only getting started making English into a true second language. While Jane isn’t that hard to read, it was a lot to take in. The nineteenth century syntax was different from anything I had ever read before, and I honestly felt tired of all the familial relationships by the time that I was on page eight. When we finally get to know Emma, however, I was sold. Though I couldn’t completely understand all that Jane was trying to say, I knew I really liked this spunky and slightly annoying young lady that tries to pair up everyone she knows.
After finishing and loving Emma, it took me a few years to get return to my Austens. While I really did love the story, I think the books slightly scared me because the writing felt so difficult the first time around. It wasn’t until 2013 that I read Mansfield Park, which was actually a buddy read with some lovely ladies who (strongly) disliked the heroine, Fanny. While Fanny isn’t like me, I fell in love with her gentle nature. She reminded me so much of one of my friends, and I loved how Jane wrote a character that felt so real to me. After Mansfield Park, I read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility with just a few months in between each.
And that’s where I’m stranded now. From a Jane Austen book I expect to be swept away to early nineteenth century England – to manors and balls and witty conversations. Her world, though with real dangers, is a safe one. When you read one of her books, you know what you’re going to get. You know she’ll sometimes confuse you with all the family trees, but also that she’ll write characters that are realistic and that might just steal your heart.
I’m glad I found this author whose books are so agreeable to me, but I’m also a bit sad about the fact that there are only two more left for me – Persuasion and the ever-present Pride and Prejudice. It’s no coincidence that I left P&P unread for so long. I’m hoping that I’m saving the best for last.
Have you ever read a book by Jane Austen? Which is your favourite?