When someone who enjoys reading tells me they have never read a Jane Austen book – or – shock horror! – that they don’t like Jane Austen, I actually take it a little bit personally. I think it’s because I’m such a proud Janeite; I am so passionate about her that I get defensive on her behalf, as if we were friends (wow, if only…)
A Janeite, as defined on the Merriam Webster site, is “an enthusiastic admirer of Jane Austen’s writings.” I have read all of her books several times, watched all the TV and movie adaptations (and have strong opinions about each one), I’ve been to visit her grave; to Chawton Cottage, where she used to live; to various spots she wrote about in Bath; and the Jane Austen Centre. I own Jane paraphernalia, I have the soundtracks, I can quote random lines… so, yeah, I’m an Austen Geek, a Janeite… and I’m proud of it.
Now, you might wonder why I adore Jane so much, and you wouldn’t be the first person to ask, either. The trouble is, it’s hard to answer that without writing a whole novel or boring your pants off. There are hundreds of reasons why I love Jane. But here’s just a few:
It was tough for Jane to be a writer.
Jane’s career as an author was tough. It was taboo, she didn’t have the modern technology I’m lucky enough to have, she didn’t have access to her readers via social media… And yet she made it, and she is still hugely popular and successful, 200 years later. That’s pretty darn impressive.
Her novels are romantic AND funny,
Jane’s novels are, for me, the original, and still the best, when it comes to romantic comedy. You can have a good laugh about Mr Bennett’s wit and Mr Collins’ ridiculousness, and yet still get that gooey fuzzy feeling when Mr Darcy finally wins Elizabeth.
The heroines are amazing women.
As much as I love Darcy, Wentworth and co., how can one not love the wicked wit of Elizabeth Bennett or the charm of Catherine Morland?
The issues in the novels are still as relevant today.
It’s so easy to identify with Jane’s characters. The carriages and bonnets may be gone, but the stories are about human nature, with the characters having many similar problems that we still experience today.
Her writing is so easy to enjoy.
Now, I know for some it can seem a little formal and the vocabulary old-fashioned. But if you just give it a few pages, that fades into the background and Jane’s wonderful prose shines through. She has a special way of describing life and situations that few authors can do so well. For example:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice)
So why do I keep re-reading the same books over and over?
Not only does my vocabulary extend to include words such as ‘amiable’ and ‘agreeable’ when I’m in the middle of an Austen novel (which I love – why can’t I speak more eloquently all the time?), but I get totally immersed and absorbed by the story. Even though I know what’s going to happen as I’ve read them all before, I find comfort because I know that what I’m reading won’t disappoint me. It’s like getting into a really warm bed, or sinking into a hot bubble bath; you just know it’s going to be pure heaven.
Which book is my favourite?
Pride & Prejudice, without a doubt, which I read at least once a year. Even if you don’t fancy reading the books, please watch it. BUT please, please, forget the (nice but too different from the book IMHO) Keira Knightly movie, watch the BBC 1995 TV adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It’s wonderful. My second favourite is Persuasion. I love Wentworth, and I love the journey Ann goes on to find happiness.
Here’s what you should do:
Forget about watching the latest episode of Eastenders or Strictly-Come-Boring or whatever other rubbish is on tonight. Go get a Jane Austen novel and find entertainment and joy from the best author who ever lived, instead.
Already a Janeite? What do you love most about her novels? Comments below…