Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Classics Club March Meme: Jane Austen

I would like to lead off this post with some interesting facts about Jane Austen:

1) Jane Austen was born the seventh child out of eight. Wow, that's one big family!

2) Jane Austen was extremely shy and thought of her family as the center of her world.

3) Jane's first love was with the nephew of a friend. Jane and Irishman Tom Lefroy began a romance that was soon ended by Tom's aunt as soon as she caught wind of it because she knew Tom would lose his inheritance if he married a "nobody." Tom Lefroy later became the Chief Justice of Ireland (Jane and Tom's story was made into the movie Becoming Jane, starring Anne Hathaway as Jane and James McAvoy as Tom. It's a great film and I highly recommend you watch it if you haven't already.)

4) Jane's second romance also ended tragically. She fell in love with a young clergyman who she met while her family was vacationing at the coast in Devon. He made plans to meet her family later in their travels (indicating there would be a proposal) but he died before he was able to join them.

5) Jane Austen died at the age of 41 from a painful, debilitating disease that was never diagnosed. Today it is believed to have been a tubercular disease of the kidneys.

You can read more about Jane Austen here.

Also, check out this article: Twelve Little-Known (False) Facts About Jane Austen.
Some of these are pretty funny. The writer really had me going at the beginning. :-D


I have read three of Jane Austen's novels so far: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. I have her other three books on my Classics Club reading list.

Northanger Abbey is my favorite so far. I really loved Pride and Prejudice as well, but I read it years ago. Almost everything I remember about the story comes from the movie starring Keira Knightley, which I've seen at least a half dozen times. The novel is definitely due for a reread.

I wrote mini reviews for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion on Goodreads, which I'll share here.

My thoughts on Northanger Abbey:

I absolutely loved this book! It's my second Austen book, after Pride and Prejudice, which I had to read for my ninth grade English class. And though I really enjoyed P&P, I still wasn't sure how I would take to Jane Austen's writing style--if it would have long passages and be overly-descriptive (thinking back, I was probably mistaking Austen for Wharton, who I love but you really have to be in a leisurely mood to enjoy one of her books) or if it would be captivating. Luckily it was the latter, and I found myself spending much of my 3-day beach vacation sneaking in moments to read whenever and wherever I could. I was obsessed. I thought Catherine Morland was very sweet and I enjoyed her and Henry's subtle romance.

Catherine was just such a funny character. I loved her imagination and the way that she owned it. That is to say, she wasn't ashamed of how carried away she'd get at times and she never let her delusions control her. They were just innocent thoughts that she flirted with in order to bring some excitement into her life. 

Henry was such a gentleman. He was very down-to-earth and Catherine's complete opposite. I only wish I could have seen them together more. I'm sure there would've been many funny scenarios between them as a couple given how different they were. The great thing was that these differences did not matter to them and that was actually part of the attraction.

And while I don't think that this was the intention of the book (or maybe it was), it made me really want to read a Gothic novel. I'm not sure what Austen really thought of the Gothics, but she got me to put Mysteries of Udolpho on my to-read list immediately after I finished Northanger Abbey. :D

Rating: 5 Stars


My thoughts on Persuasion:

I didn't like Persuasion nearly as much as P&P and Northanger Abbey. Anne Elliot's character didn't interest me that much. She was too docile of a main character to carry the book forward, IMHO.


I was really hoping that Anne would redeem herself by standing up to her selfish family in order to finally get what she wanted. It turned out she didn't have to because her father and her sister Mary now approved of Captain Wentworth due to his new rank and fortune. And that makes me uncertain about Anne's strengths in this relationship. Would she have fought to stay with Captain Wentworth if her family still disapproved? More importantly, would she have stayed with him if Lady Russell had still been against the match?

At the end of the book, Anne tells Captain Wentworth, "I must believe that I was right, much as I have suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by [my] friend...". What? You mean to say that you were right to break the heart of the person you loved more than anyone because a friend (who doesn't really control you're life) told you that you should just because he didn't have the proper rank in society? Whatever.

Maybe she would have had to break ties with her family, but that wouldn't have been much of a loss. They were awful people. They constantly ignored her and took her for granted, and yet she sacrificed over eight years of happiness and independence for them. Why?

I know that many people love this book and list it as their favorite Austen. Perhaps I'm missing something, and I'm not completely against rereading it sometime down the road to see if I get more out of it the second time. But I just could not stand the characters in this book, especially Anne's family. They were all just horrible, selfish, close-minded people. Of course, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne was incredibly sweet and romantic (the best part of the novel), but I could not see how she even deserved him. Please don't hate me for saying that. It's just how I felt reading the book. I welcome others' opinions and will be sure to keep them in mind. 

Rating: 2 Stars

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