Category Archives: Jane Austen

Family, the eternal city and a dollop of Jane Austen for good measure.

roma 2

I’ve read my way to this latest blog post in rather a roundabout way. A few weeks ago now I read Nicky Pellegrino’s When In Rome and have been mulling it over whilst trying to find time to sit down and blog about it. In the meantime, I’ve busied my reading moments with a book that my Dad got out of the library for me, a collection of essays entitled A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Reasons Why We Can’t Stop Reading Jane Austen. I also decided to simultaneously re-read Pride and Prejudice in order to make my perspective on the essays more fresh. So, as you can see, although absent from the blog-o-sphere, I have been busily reading behind the scenes.

PantheonI enjoyed When In Rome, initially I presumed it was going to be the typical boy-meets-girl fodder of your average chick-lit novel, however, this turned out not to be the case. Set in 1950s Rome, the novel is much more about families and the tangled webs that bind them together. Our narrator is a young girl called Serafina who lives in a small apartment with her mother and two younger sisters. Serafina is very much at a crossroads in her life, at nineteen, she cannot continue playing ‘little-mama’ at home bringing up her younger sisters; but must decide upon her place within the world. Does she want to follow in her mother’s footsteps and dress up for an evening’s work, meeting wealthy men in hotel rooms across the city; if not, what course will she take? Continue reading

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under 21st century, Books, Fiction, Jane Austen, Nicky Pellegrino, Reading

Still sitting on the fence…a review of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

S&SWell, I’ve finished reading Sense and Sensibility – it’s been an interesting read this one. As I mentioned at the end of my last post I hadn’t read Sense and Sensibility since I was a teenager and back then I wasn’t especially keen on the book. Confusingly, over ten years later, I still find myself sitting on the fence with regards to this book. While I most definitely enjoyed reading it more this time around, I can’t say that it’s ever going to be a book I love. It seems to me that Sense and Sensibility is something of a solid, middle-of-the-road kind of classic novel. It’s well written and plotted and its characters are well-developed, and yet, for me, there is still something a little lacking. There is far less humour to be found in Sense and Sensibility compared to some of Austen’s other works and her satirisation of characters is not as cleverly done as in some of her other writing.

s&s badge copyDon’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that I found reading Sense and Sensibility unenjoyable, far from it.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 19th century, Books, Fiction, Jane Austen, Novel, Re-reading, Reading

On Jane Austen’s doorstep…

Austen doorIt’s been roughly two years since I posted about having moved to a new town and, surprise, surprise…I’ve done it again. This time I have moved south to the beautiful Georgian city of Bath. Those of you who are familiar with my love of Jane Austen can imagine, I’m sure, how excited I am to be walking the same streets she walked.

Austen plaque Bath

Not a stroll goes by without me spying a street name mentioned in Northanger Abbey or recognising a location from Persuasion. And I’ve become rather a pain when it comes to spotting and reading the little historical plaques that adorn the buildings in Bath  in which famous men and women have lived or stayed. Only the other day I made my long-suffering other half cross Great Pulteney Street in excess of four times in order to check if any of the plaques mentioned anything about Austen.

Great Pulteney Street © Charlotte Jones, 2014I thought, therefore, with the landscape, literally, on my doorstep that it was only polite to re-read Austen’s two novels which are largely set in Bath. Naturally, there is no self-interest whatsoever in my having to read two Austen novels. Cough cough. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under 19th century, Books, Fiction, Jane Austen, Novel, Re-reading, Reading

A fine, stout love…reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

“You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

If you have visited In my good books… before then it’s likely you’ll be aware of my love affair with Jane Austen and, more specifically, Pride and Prejudice. I’m well aware that many people consider a woman who likes Jane Austen to be something of a cliché, and I am subsequently conscious of the fact that my owning up to it may cause people to form certain judgements about me. I’m not quite sure when confessing to liking Austen made you a hopeless romantic who must, without exception, be neurotically in love with Mr Darcy, but that is the reaction I have frequently encountered. It’s my opinion that Colin Firth and Bridget Jones probably have a lot to answer for.

Most little girls fall in love with ponies or pop stars…for me it was Elizabeth Bennet. I read Pride and Prejudice at a comparatively young age and it was love-at-first-page. Not only did I find a heroine to look up to, but I also encountered some of the most enjoyable prose I have ever read. I have subsequently lost count of the number of times I have read Pride and Prejudice; a re-reader by nature, my copy of Pride and Prejudice has never been left on the bookshelf for a whole year.

Jane Austen has been a good teacher. She has taught me to value good grammar. She has widened my vocabulary. She has increased my love of reading. She has given me a greater appreciation of people and how their minds work. She has taught me to pay close attention to what others say and what they do (and what they don’t say and do). She has taught me that love comes in many forms and is never simple. She has helped me to understand the importance of responsibility. Above all… “which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier”… she has taught me that people have within them the capacity to change, and that it is within our power to determine the nature of that change.

Pride and Prejudice is a story about judgement. The novel primarily addresses the judgements we make about others but also dwells on the ways in which we see and judge ourselves. Austen’s novel is deftly littered with ‘clues’ and ‘giveaways’ which skilfully denote the true nature of her characters. There are many examples of characters saying one thing and then doing the exact opposite…Wickham’s avoidance of the Netherfield ball, Mr Bennet’s proclamation that Wickham and Lydia will never be admitted to Longbourn and Lady Catherine’s declaration that she would have been a proficient piano player. Darcy, by contrast, is held up as that rare example…someone whose bark is worse than their bite…he may speak rudely, but his actions reveal him to be a better person than he appears. He asks Elizabeth to dance at the Netherfield ball, he respects and likes Mr and Mrs Gardiner, he confesses his deceptions to Bingley, and he loves Elizabeth.

If Pride and Prejudice was merely a plainly written story, its engaging plot and endearing characters would make it eminently readable; but, as it is, Austen’s style of writing renders Pride and Prejudice unique. I’ve always felt that Austen’s writing in general, but Pride and Prejudice especially, has a distinctive rhythm, a beat which I have never encountered in any other book. Right from the outset that immortal line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” carries that unique rhythm and bounce. Austen’s narrator is also no babysitter. Austen never spoon-feeds her readers telling them what to notice when, or pointing out character’s errors of judgement – it is up to the individual reader to notice and understand the events and conversations taking place.

I cannot let this review pass without paying homage to Austen’s characters, they truly are expertly and lovingly (or, in some cases, loathingly) written. Like Austen’s other novels, Pride and Prejudice has some real gems. Take, for example, Mr Collins, who never fails to make me smile. He is the perfect mix of obsequiousness and absurdity – he is…funny. Indeed, those who have never read Pride and Prejudice could be forgiven for imagining it to simply be a romance about a rude man, a few ball gowns and some big houses – what they miss is the fact that Pride and Prejudice is genuinely funny, full of intrigue and immeasurably witty. It frequently makes me laugh out loud.

Lastly I must mention the inimitable Elizabeth Bennet. No other heroine, or perhaps real woman, will ever live up to her. She has spoilt me forever. I hungrily turn the pages of each new book that I read, searching for another Elizabeth – another woman with her wit, her self-conviction, and her teasing manners – I have not found one. Although, she is by no means perfect, Elizabeth is never idle in her quest to better understand herself. Throughout Pride and Prejudice we see her finding out new self-truths and learning from her mistakes, bettering herself. With every read, Elizabeth makes me more determined to be sure of myself, speak my mind and enjoy what life offers me. Austen does not suffer wallow-ers gladly.

If you have not read Pride and Prejudice I urge you to do so. I believe it is timeless, and that if you take the time to penetrate what could, to some, seem like wordy 19th century prose then the rewards are endless. At the end of my rather battered Penguin Classic comes the ‘Notes’ section of the book, it states, “It is perhaps worth commenting on just how little requires, or would profit from, annotation in this book” – although published nearly two hundred years ago Austen’s novel still only requires four footnotes to aid the modern reader – there are not many books that could boast that. Some might say this is because Austen’s novels are inward-looking family narratives not concerned with the world outside and this is undeniable, however, if a novel can teach you about what governs our actions as human beings and teach us how to examine our own faults, then I find it hard to acknowledge it as introverted.

Put simply, I love Pride and Prejudice, ardently, and always will.

“Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.”

I read this book as part of the ‘Back to the Classics Challenge’ in the category of ‘Re-read a Classic’.

Having earlier reviewed Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit of Love, I move on to its companion novel Love in a Cold Climate.

13 Comments

Filed under 19th century, Back to the Classics Challenge, Books, Fiction, Jane Austen, Novel