Review Fridays: Jane Austen

Dear Jane,

You are a phoenix. Not only do your novels delight, but your juvenilia shows the brilliant and hilarious promise of a talented writer. Anyone who thinks that you are not funny need only look at the early works to see the sense of humor, refined as an adult. “The Beautifull Cassandra” is one of my favorites of your early work, telling the (very short ) story of a milliner’s daughter who steals a bonnet and sets off to make her Fortune.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the first line of Pride and Prejudice is so famous that a journalist need only quote it to evoke the spirit of you. Your works are oft turned into movies, so often that scarcely five years pass before a new adaptation. Your readers so love you that they attempt to figure out what your life was like and modern writers make fiction of your life. There are even movies, Jane, which I feel would half-amuse and half-horrify you, but mostly amuse.

Over 198 years after your death, could you have guessed at your continued popularity?

There are societies in your honor that meet to discuss your works, and your old home has been made into a museum. Dear Miss Austen, your face will even appear on money! All deserved honors, I assure you, no one could deserve them more. After all, your works have been beloved for generations and have inspired writers to works of their own.

Fans debate your novels, defending their favorites. Mine, at the moment, is Persuasion. It always seems to shift to the novel I have read most recently, so whenever I read Pride and Prejudice again, or Emma, or any other, I feel that it is my favorite. I adore all of your heroines, but I shall defend Fanny Price to the death. She is not dull and insipid. She shows strength in the face of her uncle’s wrath. No matter what the consequences, she will not go against her principles and what she believes is right. I think that she was probably an INFP, you who drew such fine characters, who made each of them feel like a real person. That is what leads to debate.

The heroes cause fans to faint alternately on a sofa. All one has to do is mention Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and a wet shirt scene and millions of your readers will begin to fan themselves. No, it is not the book, but the miniseries comes close to perfection. And it is not just Mr. Darcy, though he is a favorite with many. All of your heroes are written in such a way as to deserve your heroines, each is just as unique and finely written. You once described your writing as “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush.” The characters, the plots, the very language show that wonderful attention to small detail.

Your novels are a comfort. I re-read them once a year, in silent awe, admiring your ability to write so well.

Yours, etc.

Pippa

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