Persuasion

by Jane Austen

I do sometimes wonder if this is my favourite Austen novel, after all.

Anne Elliot is clever, discreet, long-suffering – and she has rather a lot to suffer.  Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, is a vain and rather pathetic man, whose company Anne is obliged to keep unless she marries.  Anne has had an offer several years ago, and on the advice of her father and, in particular, her older friend Lady Russell, turned down the man although she was in love with him.  It seems unlikely that she will find another suitor at this stage in her life.

Enter Mr Elliot: a relation with a somewhat dubious past.  Around the same time, her former suitor Captain Wentworth re-enters Anne’s life and seems to be attaching himself to Louisa Musgrave, a young, lively and attractive girl in the neighbourhood and sister-in-law to Anne’s sister.  After a distressing incident in Lyme Regis, where Anne shows her true constancy and the stable, practical nature of her character, Louisa transfers her affections.

Wentworth and Anne meet again in Bath, and are finally reconciled in a delightfully tender moment involving a note hidden in a glove ‘accidentally’ left behind.

Oh – just writing about this, 7 months later, makes me want to read it again!

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Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

What can I say about Jane Austen’s work, that hasn’t been said a thousand times?  Whenever I treat myself to one of her novels, I know I will not be disappointed, no matter how many times I’ve read it before.  The lively dialogue just sucks you in.

The characters are just as believable as in Austen’s later work – the women rather more so than the men.  It is hard to read without picturing Alan Rickman as the quiet, steady (and rather dull) Colonel Brandon, Kate Winslet as an emotional Marianne or Emma Thompson as the steady Elinor. The 1995 film is successful in its own right, not least because it draws out the male characters to make them more human and real.

This book, which I hated when obliged to read it for A-level English Literature, is still not my favourite Austen novel, but I am always ready to come back to it.

Mansfield Park

by Jane Austen

I decided to read this after reading up about Austen’s references to the slave trade in a FutureLearn MOOC on ‘Literature of the English Country House’.

This book, for me, gives the house almost as much legroom as the novel we studied on the course, Northanger Abbey.  It is one of my favourite Austen novels, despite the insipidity of its heroine, Fanny Price.  The other characters are more flawed and therefore more believable.  As a picture of family tensions – between grown-up siblings and in-laws, parents and children, well-to- do and indulged children and their ‘poor relation’ – it is unsurpassed.

Thank you, Jane.