Saturday, 4 June 2011

Jane Austen

I came to Jane Austen rather late in life because I’ve tried her novels once or twice in the past, but never got beyond the first few pages. Recently though, I downloaded her complete works onto my Kindle and for some reason took to her like a duck to water as you might say.

I find Austen old-fashioned of course and her novels are very narrow as you would expect, considering the restricted confines of her own life. Her main novels are all romances too, no real variety as to plot and the outcome is always the same – the heroine marries her ideal man. She always makes an advantageous match too.

Even so, I now find Austen’s work extraordinarily readable. She has a very good grasp of character, allows it to emerge naturally as the story unfolds, knows how characters should interact. In particular, I find she does social embarrassment well. Almost two hundred years later I'm almost in the room as Austen quietly unfolds yet another, desperately embarrassing situation.

She has a sharp sense of humour too and a gentle satiric touch that works even today where we are used to a much heavier, much cruder touch. In fact one can detect a cynical, rather detached strand to her apparently quiet, equable character. All in all I’m glad I gave her another try, even at this late stage in my reading life.

Note: the Jane Austen link above is worth a browse. It gives a few interesting social and linguistic insights.


Demetrius said...

I believe her father had a library of 600 books and I bet she read them. It is my contention that she was far from "narrow" but very very wary of and mindful of the great and good of the County and their connections beyond. It you know who they were and their connections it is entirely logical that she would want to avoid any difficulties. She had her brothers and others to consider. When in Bath she was in the same street as Hester Thrale (see Wikipedia) then Piozzi and in Hampshire there were other connections to this general circle.

A K Haart said...

Her father did have a large library, larger than mine and I'm sure she read through it. By 'narrow' I mean her social connections, her apparent lack of interest in social, political and industrial change.

I'm also thinking of her apparent range of interests, which seem to me to be narrower than Hester Piozzi's or Fanny Burney's for example, although that may be down to lack of opportunity.

I didn't know about the Hester Piozzi link and it may be that her books do not reflect the woman behind them.

James Higham said...

Austen and Kindle - what could the magic connection be there?

A K Haart said...

Austen on Kindle is cheap. Her entire output for £1.99.