Let's hear it for the powers of Austen!

If you've been following the comments of my previous post, you must have seen the love affair most of us have with Jane Austen.

I dare say a reader cannot be unhappy with a Jane Austen novel; how many other authors can make that claim?

Incredibly, her entire canon consists of seven books (six published during her lifetime). Her sister, regrettably and with little foresight, burned most of Jane's correspondence, and a diary or journal has never been found.

Just for fun, I decided to get a little dialogue going over the Powers of Austen. Below are her titles. Which one is your favorite and why? Which haven't you read? Are you not as in love with Austen as most readers -- why? How has Jane influenced your reading or writing? Let's get plain about Jane!

As for me, I have yet to read 3 of her novels: Northanger Abbey (the 2007 RIP Challenge, I vow!), Mansfield Park and Lady Susan. I admit, I love, love, love Pride & Prejudice. The dialogue simply sparkles; it is witty, subtle, intelligent. How Jane could be gently sardonic (sometimes, not so gentle) without tipping into cynicism is one of those unfathomable mysteries of genius. Characters and plot sing. And her voice: Utterly original, still fresh today. Second to P&P? It's a tough call ... perhaps Sense & Sensibility. I love the relationship of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, and the plot is vintage Austen.

What are your thoughts on Jane Austen?

Lady Susan
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility


Literary Feline said...

I am afraid I can only claim to have read Pride and Prejudice. Twice. I liked it the first time and loved it the second time around. I started Emma not too long ago (am reading it for the Classics Challenge) and am not smitten with it yet. I'm sure Emma will grow on me, but right now, she's annoying me. LOL

I do have plans to read all of Jane Austen's novels.

Julie K. Rose said...

Sadly, I've only read P&P - but I read it every year from age 11 to about 18, I think. Who doesn't love Elizabeth and want to be clever and "high-spirited"? I think I need to re-read it now that I have another 20+ years of life under my belt.

Which of the other novels would you recommend after my P&P re-read?

Courtney said...

Oh, great questions, litkit! Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey are tied as my two favorites - Pride and Prejuduce, well, because - for every reason big and small! For Darcy, for Elizabeth, for Jane...i love them all. Northanger Abbey because it's just such an enjoyable read, and I had a teacher teach it very well once.

Stefanie said...

I've read all of Austen's novels. I like P&P best for the same reason you do, the dialogue snaps and sparkles and it's sheer pleasure to read. Next I like Persuasion best. It's such a wonderful and mature story and deeply satisfying. I do not like Mansfield Park much. Fanny makes me insane. Still, I've been thinking about reading it again to see after 10 years whether I like it better.

Nonanon said...

Must say I like the dialogue best in Pride and Prejudice, but love the story of Persuasion (and Persuasion boasts the best film adaptation, starring Ciaran Hinds). Emma and Mansfield Park were okay, but for my re-reading pleasure I usually go right for one of the first two I listed.

LK said...

Literary Feline: I hear ya on Emma. That's why I am avoiding Mansfield Park -- the annoying heroine factor.

Julie K., Persuasion is a good choice.

Courtney, good to hear from ya! Can't wait to read Northanger Abbey myself.

Stefanie, I have a feeling Fanny is hard to take, which is why I went for Persuasian instead of Mansfield Park. I think after reading the bio on Austen, though, I might have better insight on that particular work.

Nonanon, I too enjoyed Persuasion the Movie, though I did enjoy the latest P&P very much, and Lee Ang's Sense and Sensibility. I only wish I had seen the movie Persuasion AFTER I'd read the novel. Sometimes, it's hard to disengage from the visuals of a film when you're reading -- I found that particularly so with Turn of the Screw (Deborah Kerr kept reappearing in my mind's eye.)

litlove said...

Well, I have to go with the flow really and say my favourite is Pride and Prejudice. I have to confess that I began Mansfield Park and never finished it. I was reading it for an English 'A' level that in the end I never took (I was trying to do it alongside working, and I'm no good doing two things at once) and the way it was taught was so ghastly that I gave it up. Probably not Jane's fault at all, and I ought to go back one day and try again.

Dorothy W. said...

Well, I'll just have to answer these questions on my own blog now, won't I?

Amos Johannes Hunt said...

//How Jane could be gently sardonic (sometimes, not so gentle) without tipping into cynicism is one of those unfathomable mysteries of genius.//

Well put!

My favorite is Sense and Sensibility, but I can't remember why.

Dark Orpheus said...

Among the circle I mix with, my favourite Austen is an unpopular one. I prefer Emma to Pride and Prejudice. Why?

Because Emma is so flawed, yet capable of growth. Because the dialogues are so layered and things only because clearer when you re-read them and realise things are going on behind the scenes you and you missed them the first time.

verbivore said...

Such good questions! And so very hard to answer. I've read all but Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan. I would also have to choose Pride and Prejudice as my hands down favorite and Sense and Sensibility as a close second. I sincerely hope my P&P favorite isn't only because of Colin Firth :-).

iliana said...

I've only read Northanger Abbey and just recently Emma. I feel like I am slowly building up to P&P :) I prefer Northanger Abbey but that may be because it was my introduction to Austen. Also I was in Bath at the time I read that so it just happens to bring back good memories of wonderful travels abroad.

Shana said...

It's ironic that you just posted this because yesterday I had a meeting with my study group and one of the members asked me to tell him why I enjoy Austen because he was HATING Mansfield Park and he wanted to hear what it is about Austen that people like so much! I tryed to fill him in on the wonders of Austen, although I don't know if I convinced him... Anyway, I have only read Emma, Pride and Prejudice and very recently finished Mansfield Park and of those three I would have to say that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite! I love the characters and the dialogue, but I have to say that while most people tend to dislike Mansfield Park I was not as turned off as people seem to be with Fanny. I actually felt kind of sorry for her and really rooted for her! Thanks for the great post and discussion it's caused!!

LK said...

In the biography by Claire Tomalin, the author says of Jane's work, and I am quoting from memory, that each of her novels was a different genre: romance, satire, debate, etc. Which accounts, I think, both for her universal appeal and the diversity of which is a favorite.

I recommend the Tomalin bio for any and all Janiacs!

Jan Jones said...

Pride and Prejudice for me (because of its sheer fun and gentle acerbity), followed by Persuasion and then Sense&Sensibility. I'm sure if I hadn't had to know Emma forwards, backwards and sideways for O-Level, it would be up there too. Sometimes I think analysing texts for school is one of the greatest disservices education ever did for literature.