Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A is for Austen

Jane Austen
1775 - 1817

Can a book written in the 19th century find admirers in the 21st?... two hundred years later? Sure, if Austen is anything to go by. And so I let Jane Austen kick off my A to Z challenge. It was a tough choice from among greats like Ayn Rand, Aldous Huxley and more recently the controversial yet highly enjoyable Amy Chua. But when I let my heart choose it has to be her.

Isn't it unbelievable that she was first published in 1811 and we're still reading her and enjoying her novels?


The beginning

Jane came from a large family of six brothers and two sisters. She was born at Steventon, a small village in North Hampshire England. Apart from a few years at Oxford when Jane was just 8, she spent all her life within the circle of her family. Even before she hit her teens she was writing short plays and stories. At about 14 years (1789) she had made up her mind to become a professional writer. However her first novel, Sense and Sensibility (earlier known as Elinor and Marianne), went into print some 12 years later, in 1811. 
Her other works include, Pride and Prejudice (earlier titled First Impressions), Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Like regular women of her times and like her heroines as well, Jane could play the fortepiano (an early version of the present day piano), was a decent enough seamstress and could dance pretty well too.


Jane, the romantic

Strangely enough for someone whose romances are so popular Jane never married. She did have one not-quite-proper romance with Tom Lefroy a law student. However they were both penniless and his family had him sent away. They never saw each other again.
She received a proposal of marriage too, the only known proposal. Though she accepted it, she later withdrew her acceptance. The reason is not known. However later in a letter to her niece who had asked for advice on a relationship, Jane told her not to commit as "... Anything is preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection", she cautioned. 
Sounds so much like Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice.

Finally..here is why

I love Austen


.. for her wit

It’s not the laugh out loud kind of thing. It’s way more subtle and unexpected. It’s an ironical kind of wit that makes you smile sentence after sentence.
Check out these gems.. 
Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure
Or Mr Darcy's 
I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.

..for her heroins

They follow their heart. They're strong and passionate yet gentle and sensitive. I wonder how that went down with the gentry two hundred years ago but it sure sits well with women of the 21st century.

.. for her plots that always end happily

I've always maintained I'm a sucker for happy endings. I love that ‘All is well’ feeling by the time her books wrap up.

.. because her books are still relevant

I can certainly vouch for India in this regard. How becoming an old maid is considered such a horror (Maybe not by the woman herself, quite like Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice, but by her family, her relatives, her neighbours and her neighbour’s neighbours). Not for nothing is she Helen Fielding’s (of Bridget Jones fame) favourite who famously said.. “Jane Austen’s plots are very good and have been market researched over a number of centuries, so I simply decided to steal one of them. I thought she wouldn’t mind and anyway she’s dead.” In a sense Austen in the mother of all modern day chick-lit. (Yikes I hate that term, so! Makes women sound like hens).

On the other side are her critics who maintain..

...her novels lack 'passion'.

Well she did skim over that bit but then I'm sure she never intended to write sexy books. (She would probably be reaching out for her smelling salts hearing that Fifty Shades was inspired by her Pride and Prejudice). 

... she suffered from a narrow vision 

because she only drew upon the small society she lived in for inspiration. Yet, how well she did it! And that her heroines could think beyond what was expected of them, speaks of her broad mindedness.


So which side are you on?

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This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014, for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.



Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.




67 comments:

  1. A good choice for A.Very nicely and interestingly written for anyone who wants to know about the great writer in detail.This opening post promises a rich fare from you in the coming days.

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    1. Thanks KP.. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

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  2. Oh I am an Austen fan all the way :) My husband finds her weird and irrelevant, but that just makes me love her more :) Trust you to pick one of my favourite authors to begin with. It just reinforces my belief that we are connected in more ways than one :)

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    1. Sure we are. As for husbands.. I don't think mine has even read most of her!

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  3. Lovely article on Jane Austen. Am sure she's be very proud of you. I got a taste of her literature very young, probably when I was all of 13 years old. never understood it as much but later read it again.... and associated with it much. Thanks....and yeah, am on Austen's side :)

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    1. Hey me too..I also first read Austen when I was way too young. It was only later that I could appreciate her properly.

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  4. WOW WOW WOW my most favorite author :O *faints* I am waiting for the rest :)

    http://iamstri.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/achilles-heel-day1-atoz-challenge-2014/

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    1. *sprinkles water.. waves dirty sock under nose* wake up.. you can't faint, the fun's just beginning.

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  5. Love her and love the way you have shared about her!! It is amazing that her books are so relevant and a must read even in the times today! Must pick up Pride and Prejudice again!

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    1. Thanks Shilpa. Yes that's been quite a problem while I was writing. I was continuously tempted to pull out the books and start reading :-).

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  6. Like your theme for the challenge! Nice post!

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  7. I used to read Austen when I was very young, it has been ages since then but I still remember how I couldn't wait to get back from school to pick up the novel where I left...it was that addictive once upon a time :)

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  8. My favourite author! Bookmarking you and looking for to the rest :)

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  9. Superb Tulika. Loves this to bits. Yes Austen is still relevant.. Haven't gone back to reading her ib a long while...will do after April madness is over. BTW still chuckling thinking how Austen would react on 50 shades...tee her her :)

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    1. Me too Aditi.. Specially after seeing her picture in that 'propah' bonnet and all.. 50 shades would have knocked her off for sure.

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  10. I love Austen too...And I really like the way she incorporated social commentary into her tales..I can't decided between Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice as my favorites among her work..

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    1. Tough choice Naba. I can't even decide who I like better between Eleanor and Marianne.

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  11. Well begun is half done :-)

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  12. Superb choice Tulika. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. I also enjoyed Sense and Sensibility. I just love the way Jane Austen writes, She's such a talented writer.

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  13. Love Austen and I also love the way your post is framed.
    Who is B?

    Ishithaa
    #AtoZChallenge

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    1. Thanks Bhavya. Heh heh.. Make a guess for B.. Easy enough after Austen.

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  14. Very good choice.... one of my fav writer :)

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  15. What a way to start...image of Colin Firth aka Mr Darcy...very nice. I, too, love Jane Austen. I like to listen to the books being read as I go for my walk each day. Thank you for a lovely post.

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    1. Oh yes.. Colin Firth was very much in my thoughts when I wrote this one! Thanks for dropping by Erica.

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  16. I love Austen, because my Mom loved Austen. And also because there's Colin Firth :D
    I had the joy of watching Pride and Prejudice last April with my closest friends and have such wonderful memories :-) Just two days ago, I read another Austen-related post by a friend.

    Vidya
    Affirmations

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    1. I know what it's like to watch a film with adroolworthy hero in the company of friends!! Thanks for coming by Vidya.

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  17. Haven't had a pleasant brush with Austen yet :) I'm sure I'll find her lovely, after reading your post :) Waiting for B... :)

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  18. Love the post! Austen is comfort read for me. I have read and re-read her books several times and i just had to read them during both my pregnancies. When i'm packing in haste for a journey and don't know what book to pick, i carry Austen. I can still get engrossed in them like the very first time! And i am so glad to find so many die-hard fans! Yippee...we must form an Austen Admirers club....and thanks Obesessivemom for connecting us through this post!

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    1. That's such a good idea SM. It's always fun to re read our favourites.. and I love the bits where Lizzie and Darcy have their verbal duels.

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  19. Wow! Yes with you on all points OM :) Loved the way you've written this.
    Love Austen.. was guessing this would be an entry for J..but what a pleasant surprise this is :) Esp since I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice currently :)

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    1. I've had to mix and match Priya.. there'a another huge favourite at J who I couldn't have left out.

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  20. Please please see lost in Austen. I am sure you will love ithe interpretation too :)

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  21. Thank you for picking Jane, Tulika. My number 1 comfort read. I can't count the number of times I've read her entire works! Now I go around collecting Austen inspired modern writing! Looking forward to more good stuff from you.

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    1. She's on all our lists Corinne. This was just great fun.

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  22. Ah. Austen and feminism are my favorites! Great start to the A2Z challenge

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  23. A started with a bang here, love it. I enjoy reading Jane Austen's books and have watched the movies based on her books endless times, can't get enough of them. Your theme is a writer's and reader's delight, will be camping here for more gems from the authors' world.

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    1. Thank Sulekkha. Will be good to have you around.

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  24. what a coincidence Tulika, only today I ordered a Jane Austen book on my Kindle...the 1803 book Northanger Abbey... this post will be an inspiration while reading :)

    Indeed a good piece of art is beyond time and fashion and latest trend, be it a book, a song or a cinema :)

    Amritt

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    1. Absolutely.. classics are timeless.

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  25. We all have memories with Austen..loved your post.>Watttt abeginning girl

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  26. I loved Jane Austen! Her book "Sense and Sensibility" is one of my favorites! ♥ Happy A-Z!

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  27. What a classic way to kick start the A-Z challenge, Shailaja! I'm a complete sucker for the creator of Mr. Darcy. :)

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    1. So am I.. he's the best. BTW.. I'm Tulika.. not that I mind being Shailaja.. she's totally a dear and way more organised than I am!

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  28. I was nodding my head as I read along... I loved Jane Austen's books for the depth and strength of her characters. They inspire me till this date. You reminded me of many beautiful evenings of book reading.

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    1. I'm glad the post brought happy memories for you Rajlakshmi.

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  29. I love Jane Austen
    She is a class apart whether it is sense or sensibility,pride n prejudice ,north anger abbey.......
    Loved your post immensely

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    1. Thanks Sitara.. she really is wonderful.

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  30. Love Austen too Tulika, great 1st post :)

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    1. Sunila Thank you.. she's a universal favourite it seems.

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  31. I didn't read Austen until about 5 years ago, but I'm not upset about that. I'm not sure I would have appreciated them as much at a younger age. I love her stories and will definitely be stopping by again to see who else you highlight!
    Stopping in from the A to Z Challenge.

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    1. I too appreciated h more much later when I re-read her books. Thanks for dropping by Sabrina.

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  32. Umm...not the biggest fan of Austen either. Her books were ok but didn't always draw me in.

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    1. Well to each his/her own. Just a thought though - you're not even in love with Darcy??

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  33. the only book that i have read by austen is 'sense and sensibility'...i hope to read every book soon...have watched and loved that bbc series on pride and prejudice...

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  34. The only Jane Austen book I've read is Emma, but it was so long ago that I hardly remember it. Your post has renewed my Austen interest!!

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  35. She would probably be reaching out for her smelling salts hearing that Fifty Shades was inspired by her Pride and Prejudice...Loved this thought and I agree 100%.
    It was J for Jane Austen for Me... Glad we share some common love..:)

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