Emma is a rather frivolous story - light but without missing depth. The characters act in foolish fashions, but at the same time their faults are so e...moreEmma is a rather frivolous story - light but without missing depth. The characters act in foolish fashions, but at the same time their faults are so easy to relate to that you can't help but love them anyway. Which is the lesson here: there is always room to improve, if one wishes, and if the people nearby genuinely love you and stand by your side. Heart-warming!(less)
Jane Austen's later novels are all so different in their layout as to again and again render me surprised as to what she could do within the literary...moreJane Austen's later novels are all so different in their layout as to again and again render me surprised as to what she could do within the literary conventions of her time.
Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, is not self-assured and vivacious; quite the contrary. She is shy, timid, afraid to speak her own mind. She's a prime example of how a child can be kept low if chosen: her rich relatives take her in, but they don't make her feel cherished. Thankfully she's got Edmund Bertram, her cousin, to help her through the first years at Mansfield.
Edmund is another such thing which Jane Austen doesn't present to the reader of her novels in any other case: a hero who is continuously present throughout the narrative.
Of course, the setting and supporting cast all lend themselves to much liveliness, and of such there is enough throughout the story's course. Friends of the family assemble at Mansfield while Sir Thomas, the head of the family, is gone; they try to put on a theatre production, but are prevented from finishing it by the early arrival of Sir Thomas from Antigua. But Fanny never takes part in it; she remains a looker-on who gives the reader her view on how proper (or not) such displays as she sees are; she is the reader's guide, the moral centre.
I can understand why many may not like Fanny much. I didn't much like her in the beginning either; but she definitely grows on me as time goes on and more and more of her circumstances and her treatment is revealed. She is not without fault, despite her moral compass.
The novel, I thought, started off rather slow, but it steadily gained in interest. The clearer Fanny's attachment to Edmund becomes, and the clearer his folly in attaching himself to Mary Crawford, of whom we know thanks to Fanny that she's not at all what Edmund thinks her to be, the more anxiety for the happy ending entered into my reading experience.
On this note I shall end my blather: Austen manages to make every character a crucial part of the narrative, more so here than in many others of her novels. The topics she touches upon are much more obviously vast, ranging from poverty/wealth to education to propriety and social conventions (and their change as lamented by the older generation!) to love, vanity and the consequent missteps - leading to divorce. Of course there are many more aside from these. I'm not going to be concerned with how Austen weaves these themes into Mansfield Park or how well she does it: suffice it to say she once again managed to write a story that swept me off my feet upon re-reading. Don't dislike the novel for what it's not, compared to some of Austen's other books. Like it for what it is!(less)
I must admit I enjoy reading Northanger Abbey more than I do Emma - even though I like Emma's storyline better.
What's that about, you ask?
Well, I supp...moreI must admit I enjoy reading Northanger Abbey more than I do Emma - even though I like Emma's storyline better.
What's that about, you ask?
Well, I suppose I find this novel's straighforwardness rather refreshing. Something - or someone - always moves about and keeps the reader engaged in action. It keeps to the point and doesn't waver from it much.
Northanger Abbey definitely isn't the better book, though. From the beginning the hero's identity is clear, the Thorpes are susceptible and Mrs. Allen tiresome, none of which changes through the course of the novel. I feel like Northanger Abbey is remiss in the depth that characterises Austen's other novel. There is no real conflict here; all the minor disappointments and points of crisis as well as the climax are brought about by misunderstandings rather than actual conflict, which serves little to make the characters grow. Austen doesn't live up to her later books like Emma, Persuasion or even Pride and Prejudice (which, though written earlier, was revised and published later), I think. Everything stays the way it seems at first glance, and apart from the criticism pointed at reviewers of novels there is little critique of social conventions to be felt.
Still this is a very fun read. The comments and evaluations of the narrator, much more overt than Austen usually makes use of, are quite amusing, poking fun at the heroine as much as possible. I think it's this that makes me enjoy reading this book so much.(less)
Persuasion shows off a delicate understanding of what it means to have been separated from the one you love for eight years. The comic, as always, is...morePersuasion shows off a delicate understanding of what it means to have been separated from the one you love for eight years. The comic, as always, is there, but the true depth of feeling is much more prevalent. In everything, it speaks of maturity, which at once sets this novel apart from other Austen books and makes it something very special.
The changes that are hinted at in Pride and Prejudice have already taken place in Persuasion, since Anne Elliot accepted an offer of marriage from Captain Wentworth years ago, an acceptance which then she retracted. She has had time to consider her choices and review her character.
When comparing Persuasion, the last novel Jane Austen lived to complete, her own age becomes apparent on the page. While the author must have matured, so have her plot choices. This observant novel about second chances is a truly refined one, lively but bittersweet, with the expected obstacles to be overcome that ultimately lead to a happy ending, all the while keeping an almost quiet, understated tone. There is a mix of rational understanding and an emphasis on true feeling here that really set Persuasion apart.(less)
Pride and Prejudice is, in my eyes, a very complete work. Many critics wonder at how Jane Austen manages to make the so very ordinary into something e...morePride and Prejudice is, in my eyes, a very complete work. Many critics wonder at how Jane Austen manages to make the so very ordinary into something extraordinary, which is, to me, just the thing why Jane Austen's works appeal to so many people on so many different levels. This ordinariness is something the reader can easily relate to.
Anyway, I'm not here to discuss Austen's readership, I want to write a short blurb about why I love this novel so much. Pride and Prejudice is lively and entertaining from the very beginning; it opens without a lengthy introduction right into the action, which moves forward relentlessly. The novel is active: it breathes, it moves. It makes you feel along.
The large cast allows for the portrayal of relationships on a great many levels - filial, conjugal, friendly, sisterly, rivalry etc. - which offers a very three-dimensional look at the characters. At the same time, Austen offers a very witty and self-conscious look at her contemporary society, poking fun at herself as a working member of that society just as much as at her fellow men and women. Much of that fun-poking about the nature of men and women is still valid today! But it's not all fun and games - the novel also explores themes of choice, identity and change, among others.
Lizzy Bennett is what the novel relies on: her tone pervades everything. Humour, wit, intelligence, warmth and some stubbornness make her the born narrator - and the born central character. She isn't flawless, but Jane Austen manages to make her come alive as you read the story. This is really quite extraordinary, to me. The love/marriage plot feels natural, for how could Mr. Darcy not have fallen for her? That there are so many obstacles in the way doesn't add drama, per sé, it just makes the storyline feel the more real.
And at the same time, Pride and Prejudice is a comfort read. Never forget the power of that aspect.(less)
I think there is a depth to Jane Austen's writing that gets easily missed, because the lessons here - quite universal lessons, too - are so subtly wov...moreI think there is a depth to Jane Austen's writing that gets easily missed, because the lessons here - quite universal lessons, too - are so subtly woven into the narrative. Sense and Sensibility, in that vein, is not simply a marriage plot/love story to me - it's also a journey of self-discovery, of deep (familial) affection and an exploration of what is necessary in life to gain happiness. Is the argument love conquers all? I don't quite think so, for financial matters play quite large a role, especially when listening to sensible Elinor. Marianne and Colonel Brandon are a lovely flawed couple
Austen succeeds in portraying her characters very consciously. At least the main cast has motives that render none of them quite as despicable as it may seem at first glance. Here the reader can find a display of a grasp of human nature that, for me, offers enough reason why this novel is considered a classic. Even though the circumstances of life have changed tremendously, much of Austen's observations, with a little adaptation, still ring true. Classing it only as "romance" would not do justice to this piece of literature.
My only criticism? While the prose is wonderfully effective and clear, sometimes it felt as if Austen was trying to tell me what was happening instead of showing it. Thus, four points.(less)