What Makes us Love Jane Austen?

5:13 PM

I love books, both old and new. As a writer and as a reader, I'm always fascinated by what makes a book last. Jane Austen is an author that continues to be read, rewritten, and loved even these many years after her books are published. While I'm sure there are many books and articles that utilize a lot of research, here are just a few of my thoughts on the subject.

Whether it is Emma's well-meaning mistakes, Lizzie's quick judgments, or Fanny's seeming inability to speak up for herself and others, Jane Austen wrote characters with believable faults that many of us can identify with. It's always nice to have characters that are inspiring, but not so perfect we feel we could never emulate them.

Personally, I think Jane Austen's greatest skill (and the reason we still get so much from her books) was her insight into human emotions. All of her characters are complicated. Having recently reread Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, I was once again struck with her complicated characters. They have emotional highs and lows. The longer I live, the more I realize how each character has depth and you can find people around you that are a lot like them.

While her writing was solid, I do think her setting made her books stand the test of time. The manners and beauty of the Regency era are captivating. Sometimes, I just read a passage that is steeped in the customs of the time and I sigh happily, soaking up the gentility. Other times, I laugh or poke fun at it. However, the time in which she wrote really adds to the charm of her stories.

While flawed, I think all her main characters were good people who you feel you can always root for. While I love a good redemption story, I sometimes get tired of books where the characters seem to be more flawed then good. Just as they have flaws we can relate to, I feel they also have goodness that we can aspire to.

Lastly, the struggles each of her characters face are normal but compelling. Anne chose to follow advice that could cost her marital happiness for her life, Lizzie struggles to navigate her life in a proper way despite how some of her family members act, Fanny wants to do what is right but struggles to communicate her deepest feelings, and Emma wants everyone to be happy but thinks she knows best how to do it.  While normal struggles, Austen presents them in a compelling way.

Why do you find Jane Austen compelling?

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  1. I have to admit, I've never read a real Jane Austin book. *ducks* I've seen a couple movies, and read yours' and Kelsey's retellings, and that's it. If I were to read one, which one should I try?

  2. I just started Jane Austen! I've been listening to the audio books while in Germany. First Mansfield Park, which was nice. Then Sense and Sensibility, which I LOVED. I just started Persuasian. Really enjoyed what you said here, especially about aspiring to be like the characters. And the setting is so lovely.

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