Thursday, April 25, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #22 Jane Austen

V: Victory Over the Stereotypes Placed on Us by Others

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:

Sense and Sensibility
'The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Pride and Prejudice
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the "most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author's works," and Eudora Welty in the twntieth century described it as "irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."

Mansfield Park
'We have all been more or less to blame ...
every one of us, excepting Fanny'

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.

'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austin once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

Northanger Abbey...haven't read it.
A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.

Publication Date:  1811, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1818, 1817

Why this book:
Asking me to choose just one Jane Austen book that has influenced me is nearly impossible...I've only read five of the six in the picture, but I have so much to say about them...I'll try to limit myself.

Sense and Sensibility
I realized that this book was more than the romance I made it out to be when my student book group read it. We were at the coffee shop talking about it. I was saying how upset I was about Willoughby and one of my students talked about the fact that she always had a place in her heart for the colonel; it wasn't the fact that Willoughby refused to grow up, but the fact that once Marianne grew up she realized that love didn't have to come in a pretty package for it to be real. Hmm...all that from a 16 year-old. That so impresses me.

Pride and Prejudice
Best romance EVER! Made perfect by the fact that every great romance after it follows the same delicious formula...I love the story of Darcy's pride and Elizabeth prejudice or is that the other way around. And, when I need a Darcy fix I go to the BBC mini-series or I pop in "You've Got Mail" or "Bridget Jone's Diary"...sigh...

Mansfield Park
I first read this book in a college British literature class where the professor affectionately called Jane Austen novels period soap operas where we were duped into being concerned about whether the poor little rich girl would have the proper dress for the ball or would she have to wear the dress from last season. This isn't really far from the truth, however, I love the growth of the main character, Fanny. Actually, if I had to pick a favorite after P&P, this novel is what I'd pick.

Soooo...yeah, my 21 year-old self loved Emma when I was first introduced to her...she didn't need men as they didn't and couldn't improve her situation and then she falls for one any way. It just makes sense. I also love Emma's remake 'Clueless' and I believe that Emma and/or Cher and I would be great friends.

Ohhhh, the longing...ohhhhhh...the misunderstandings...ohhh...the pride...
Not my favorite Austen, but it does have excellent lessons in patience and love and committment and what it means to follow your heart no matter what. Sighhhhhh...

Northanger Abbey...haven't read it.

Read all of her works here.

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