I return as promised!
Back in July when I challenged myself to conquer the novels (well, the six of them that I owned) of Jane Austen, I decided that writing a review of each would be a great idea. And when I discovered that Jane herself would be placed on one of our lovely British bank notes, I thought it would be deemed a sort of celebration.
So, to get the book pages turning, I thought I'd start - obviously - with one of today's most popular romances. This novel, it can be argued is the forerunner of all contemporary romances and has produced some awesome films, an epic televison sereis (Colin Firth - yay!) and so many laughs and one-liners that it simply had to go first. I'm speaking, of course, about Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife." The story of the five Bennet sisters and the unfolding love stories between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, Mr Bingley and Jane, and the disaster of Wickham and Lydia has captured many a reader over the years. The romantic and witty contents has often provoked many controversial theories (some may say outrageous) about the text's contents - I urge you to take a peek at any of the literary guides... I won't spoil the surprise!
I love this book, outrageous theories or not; P&P was one of the first classical novels I picked up as a youngster. The story is charming and flows magnificently from one scene to the next, while the characters are well defined and humourous.
Elizabeth is a strong protagonist, her agency quite unique in a period where most young women were to be seen and not heard, always asking permission before doing anything new. She is a modern woman for her time and not afraid to speak her mind. This contrasts greatly with her elder sister, Jane, who is quiet and unassumingly gentle.The male characters, Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley are also interesting (let's not forget Collins and Wickham!).
Overall, with its sweet romantic story and witty dialogue, P&P is a quintessential romance told within the genteel rural society of the period. It is a fun and happy tale, and one that even the most grumpy being couldn't fail to enjoy!
Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen's first published novel, S&S, tells the story of the elder Dashwood sisters, reliable and reasonable Elinor and her impulsive and somewhat emotional sister Marianne. After their father's death, they, along with their mother and and younger sister, must leave their family estate (Norwood); the property has been left to their half brother John due to a tricky entail. However, before the girls leave, John and his wife arrive with the Edward Ferrars, with whom Elinor develops a close relationship.
With only a small income left to them, the Dashwood girls move to Devonshire and into a small cottage, owned by a distant cousin. There, they are acquainted with the brave and gentlemanly Colonel Brandon and utterly charming Willoughby - among others. The sisters must navigate themselves through the social world, their hearts baring many woes before they can find true love.
The title really does sum up the novel, and though it took me a little longer to read due to the language difference, I enjoyed it immensely. Jane Austen really did like her strong and fiery characters didn't she? And not just that, she loved her scandal. This novel introduced some elements that would have been viewed as shocking to 19th century society. Women having children out of wedlock? Wow. That would have raised some eyebrows, I imagine.
And I simply adore C.Brandon. Not just because of who played him in my favourite adaptation (Alan Rickman) but because he is a man of honour and remains so throughout the novel - and let's face it, when you discover who Willoughby really is, remaining honourable would be quite a difficult task.
Though the book was a bit long winded at times, I think it was light hearted and a wonderful sort of comedy of errors.
Fanny Price, one of many children, is offered a place to live by her rich relatives; sent to their home, Lord and Lady Bertram wish to see that she is properly raised. But Fanny's childhood is a miserable and lonely one, estranged from her siblings and treated cruelly by her female cousins. Only Edmund is kind to her, and they bond over the years. But when her cousins befriend two glamourous new people who have just arrived in the area, Henry and Mary Crawford, things begin to change. While Fanny used to be treated as though she were a lower being by everyone but Edmund, Edmund's fondness for Mary begins to alter their friendship and Fanny finds herself dealing with emotions she has never experienced before.
This is officially my favourite Jane Austen novel. It had me glued to my Kindle Fire - and even occasionally shouting at it - willing the characters on in their exploits.
While the characters are well defined and the story is superb; the reason it is my favourite is because you really feel for Fanny. When Edmund leaves her, breaks his promises, when he says things that are hurtful - as a reader you feel her pain and therefore absolutely loathe Mary (who is a moo anyway). Plus, with this novel, we get to see into the male mind, which I find quite interesting and more like the novels of today.
This is a 5 star xxxxx
Emma is a wealthy unmarried young lady who has nothing better to do than make matches for those around her, much to the displeasure of her nervous father and handsome Mr Knightley. But when the young Frank Churchill arrives in town, and her latest attempt at match-making goes awry, things begin to go wrong.
A satire on the upper classes, Emma is a quite a peculiar romance, as not many people - myself included - particularly like the protagonist. Nevertheless the novel is amusing and the writing itself is bouncy - by that I mean I like the pacing...
Knightley is my favourite male protagonist of the Austen men, I have to say. I have no idea why. He is not as handsome as Darcy, or as honourable as Brandon - but there is a shine to his character that I love. His seeming lack of words I find utterly charming; the line, 'If I loved you less, I could talk about it more,' really pulling at the heartstrings.
Fun and entertaining!
Anne Elliot accepted the proposal of Captain Wentworth then was persuaded by her family - who scorned the match, as it was deemed unsuitable - to end the engagement. Years later, Wentworth returns to the neighbourhood quite determined to marry anyone but Anne, and Anne is left to wonder whether she is at all suitable for marriage.
Unlike Austen's usual novels, the protagonist of this book is not a fiery and spirited, well-educated young woman, but a quiet and sensible lady who considers herself well past the prospect of marriage; the gentleman is not a man in ownership of a great estate and even shows frailty and spite on several occasions. It is an interesting novel, to be sure, though not my favourite.
I enjoyed the story and the character development, but the lack of tension within the novel was something of a frustration. And while I found the lack of verbal duels an intriguing aspect to this novel as it differed from the others, it seemed to slow the pace down considerably. Overall, I believe that this story is a must read for an Austen fan, but not for a reader who is a novice in the romance department.
Where do I start with this one?
Catherine Morland, a young and imaginative young girl who is bored of country life - and rather enjoys a gothic - is given the opportunity to try the society life of Bath. There she meets many dashing young men, including Henry, who she pictures as her Byronic hero or prince in disguise. This is further enhanced when she is invited by his father General Tilney, to the family home Northanger Abbey.
And then the problems begin. As love begins to bloom, problems begin to sprout. The General believes Catherine to be an heiress, which she is not... Catherine's wealth, or lack of, is a problem, a point of shame for the General and she is cast from the Abbey, sent back to her quiet life in the country. Does she wait for Henry? Or does Henry only love her as a sister?
This was my least favourite of the Austen novels... because hardly anything happened. The character developed was a little lacking in vavavoom and though the story itself was rather charming, I found the Gothic satire thing a bit pointless. It didn't have even a remote sense of Gothic to me.
On saying that, I liked the idea of the female protagonist being naive and unaffected. It's something you don't see everyday - certainly not now - and probably wouldn't have been seen often during the period it was wriiten either, certainly not in high society, where a woman's goal was to find a rich or suitable husband.
Overall, I was quite disappointed but glad I made the effort to read it.
So, there they are! I hoped you enjoyed them!
- T.L Spencer
- Diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of eleven T L Spencer turned to writing as a way to cope with her condition. Her vivid imagination and love of all things paranormal influenced her writing. T L Spencer enjoys all forms of literature and is currently studying at university, hoping to become a teacher.