As tomorrow is the day that I unleash my thoughts at having finally read, from cover to cover, a full Jane Austen novel I thought it would be nice to have something from an aficionado on the subject. So today’s guest post is brought to you by my lovely friend Michelle Roberts who has been a fan of Jane Austen (Mills and Boons and ponies) since I have known her and beyond. And so here today, in a wonderfully witty way, she shares her love of Jane Austen and why we must simply all read her. I think any fans of Jane Austen will LOVE this post and if you are yet to be converted then this might just push you to reading her. Anyway, here it is…
I can remember when Simon first confessed his dirty secret several years ago. We were having a nice chat and a cuppa and he went and spoilt it all by dropping a J-bomb…and confessing that he simply DIDN’T LIKE JANE AUSTEN and had NEVER read any of her novels. NEVER EVER.
Obviously my first reaction was laughter at yet another of Simon’s funny jokes. Being a very popular book blogger and bibliophile I figured it had to be one – I mean, who doesn’t like Jane Austen?!!
Sadly ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t a joke and our friendship was very nearly over when he casually reasserted this blasphemy by saying that he had “tried to read Pride and Prejudice once but it was the most boring first fifty pages I’ve ever read”.
What is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest lines in English literature was flippantly described as BORING. No remorse was shown. I tried to delve into Simon’s clearly addled brain and convert him but no, visiting her house didn’t do it, even a jolly trip to ‘Pemberley’ aka Lyme Park (complete with Pride and Prejudice soundtrack and our own distinctive and unique recreation of the classic moment of Darcy emerging from the bushes after a dip in the lake, a la the 1995 BBC series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle – one of Simon’s only redeeming features is that he did love this show) couldn’t sufficiently excite Simon into actually reading anything.
So anyway, lacking any knowledge of Austen, Simon asked me to write a little something about why I like Jane so much. I mean, I’m not sure why he asked me necessarily. I’m only a marginal fan really *coughs* having studied Jane at university; owning various Jane Austen related paraphernalia, all the novels, many books that are bizarrely inspired by Jane Austen but talk about lost sex scenes or zombies; owning many films (some of which aren’t adaptations but are remotely related to Jane Austen in some tenuous way or other) and owning the film soundtracks, Jane Austen calendars, tea towels, book marks and mugs…I’m pretty far from being a massive Jane Austen geek, I think you’ll agree. Ahem, let us move swiftly on shall we…
So, what is it I love about Jane Austen? Two words sum it up: Mr Darcy!! Blog complete. Only joking, I mean he’s a great moody hero but really it’s the sparky Elizabeth Bennet character in Pride and Prejudice – the epitome of heroine that steals the show. Actually, now I think about it, the frocks and settings are pretty cool…no, no I’ll go with the charming and witty writing. Hmmm, but what about the deliciously romantic plots where the good folk always prevail in the end? I’m finding it pretty tricky to pin this down… The reasons are endless.
I think the thing about Jane (and I don’t think she’d mind me being on first name terms with her?) is that reading her books is always a joyful indulgence (except maybe Mansfield Park – surely everyone agrees that one is a bit weird??). I always turn to Jane in times of need and comfort because I always find it an escape from the sometimes lurid, chaotic, or plain rubbish day to day life. It’s not always an easy journey to follow Jane’s characters (Captain Wentworth I’m talking about you!!) but that is why it’s very satisfying to reach the end; because it does feel like a journey you have made with the characters. It is so easy to get lost in it; even if I’ve put it down to go out, I forget that I’m not in the carriage going to Hartfield but I’m a Fiat Punto going to Hertford.
I think everyone should read Jane’s novels because in spite of them depicting a very narrow field of existence in a very different time from now and them pretty much forming the basis of every cheesy ‘Hollywood’ film-ending ever written, they all speak volumes about human nature and are still relevant in many ways. And surely it is never a waste of precious time away from catching up with Strictly when you get carried away on such a romantic journey written so amusingly and which you know will leave you with a fuzzy warm glow that hasn’t got anything to do with the bottle of ‘Pink Lady’ sparkling perry (or Lambrini, we don’t discriminate here) you tucked away absentmindedly whilst ploughing cover to cover.
So if you do one thing this weekend, go and get a copy of one of Jane’s masterpieces (wearing authentic Regency-style dress to do this is optional) and be prepared to lose several hours without realising it. Go on, pick one up!