Friday’s favourite: Jane Austen

Jane Austen

It probably comes as no surprise that this week’s “Friday’s Favourite” is the Great One herself, Jane Austen! What came as a surprise to me, however, was how hard it was for me to work out what to say about her, that hasn’t already been said I mean! Initially I was going to write a bit of a biography of her, then I remembered wikipedia existed, but so much has been said it seemed pointless. Instead I want to tell you why Jane Austen is so dear to me.

My first impression of Austen, I can admit to you after much soul searching, was actually disappointment. When I was about 13 I decided I was going to read one of her books for the first time. Instead of making the logical choice for my introduction to Austen, I decided I would read “Mansfield Park”. Partly this was because when I was browsing the shelves I noticed the introduction to it said that it was Austen’s least popular novel…and right there and then I vowed it was going to be my favourite, come hell or high water. The thing was, it was just a big shock to my system, it was my first real foray into adult fiction and the step up was, probably, a little too big. “Mansfield Park” was was so much more linguistically complicated than anything I’d ever read before and I didn’t really understand all the subtleties or how to take Austen’s style. I struggled through it though, and when I finished all I can remember thinking is “how come they use so many fancy sentences insulting each other politely?”

When I look back on this moment now I recognise that this was one of life’s “light-bulb” moments. Part of what I’ve learnt to love about the English language is the way words can say so many different things depending on how you phrase them, or the intonation that you use. Some of the books I love the most are the ones where authors do something wonderful with words and it was Jane Austen that introduced me to this. Needless to say, like Lizzie Bennet, my first impression is not the one I have now. Even better, Jane Austen hasn’t just introduced my to the splendour of English, she introduced to me to historical fiction, and through this my all-time favourite author , Georgette Heyer. So, the fact of the matter is, without Jane Austen, I would have had fewer hours of great reading, probably would never have done an English degree, and definitely wouldn’t have had anything to to write my dissertation on! If that isn’t a good reason for a “Friday’s Favourite then, really, what is?

What’s your favourite Jane Austen novel? Or, even better, what did you (honestly) think the first time you read her?