#JaneAusten200

Today is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death – a writer who found so much more fame, and critical acclaim, after she died than during her lifetime. I wonder what it would be like to pop back and see how your legacy is holding up…

I love Jane Austen because she wrote my favourite book, Pride and Prejudice.

I stumbled across P&P when I was sixteen, in that long tedious summer between taking my GCSEs and starting my A-Levels. I was bored of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which was being shown every day, and channel-hopping (which didn’t take long, back then, with four channels!) In fact, because there were only four channels, I ended up watching the 1940 Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version…

P&P 1940

Just look at that dress!

I didn’t see it from the start, but recall being aghast at the ending – where Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lizzie argue.

In this version, Lady Catherine is arguing because she wants to make sure that Lizzie is a strong enough character for her nephew – she gives her blessing!

Argh! No. Even at sixteen, and with no prior knowledge of Jane Austen at all, I knew this was a little absurd, and went in search of the book. All, of course, was forgiven in the original’s hands, and my love of P&P was cemented.

I love the comedy, the relationship between the Bennett parents, the etiquette. I am enveloped each time I read it, snuggling into it like a favourite jumper in the winter. Whenever I’m ill – the lying down unable to move kind of illness – I’ll put on the 1995 BBC version, and drool over Colin Firth, and giggle heartily at Benjamin Whitrow’s portrayal of Mr Bennett (“No lace, Mrs Bennett, I beg you; no lace.”)

Apart from Jane Austen, I am not much of a romance novel reader. But I think Austen offers so much more – I enjoy the immersion in social history, the tedium of daily life, of chores, of endless needlework.

I tend not to read historical novels because I’m never sure which parts are true and which are fictional. It confuses me. But novels written in the period offer me a sense of reality.¬†Austen wrote about the people she knew, keeping them within the bubble of their own lives – the only nod to the fact Britain was at war with France is the presence of the militia, which brings Wickham and his sub-plot into the mix.

But I like that. This novel is about real women, trying to find their way in a world where marriage and children was really their own option for a successful life. They would not have sat around discussing war – that would have been for the men to do – but they would have been interested in their neighbours’ lives.

Yes, I made asked Hubby to recreate Lizzie and Darcy’s walk to the carriage – with strategic photography to make sure the bin wasn’t in view!

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen novel?

 

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