Austen and me

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday. The novelist was born on 16th December 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, where she lived more than half her life.

There are legions of Austen fans around the world, but I must admit that I’m not one of them. Any enjoyment from reading her novels was spoilt by having to study, analyse and write about them at school for English Literature classes and exams. As far as I remember from my school days Northanger Abbey I found ok, but it was Mansfield Park, with the insipid heroine Fanny Price, which I couldn’t abide.

I haven’t read an Austen novel since.

What I have enjoyed greatly, though, are film and TV adaptations of her works. The stand out ones for me being:

1995 BBC TV mini series of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
[yes, the one with THAT scene!] Alison Steadman was Mrs Bennett (hers is my all time favourite Mrs Bennett)

and

the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly. David Bamber’s performance as Mr Collins was exquisite and I loved Donald Sutherland as Mr Bennett.

So, I’ve decided to read (or maybe re-read) an Austen novel, afterall my schooldays were a long time ago and I really ought to try and exorcise my anti-Austen demon.

Which of her six novels should I read or re-read? In order of publication they are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice. Mansfield Park, Emma with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion being published posthumously.

Generally I would plump for a chronological approach to reading an author’s works, but given that Pride and Prejudice features exclusively in my choice of TV and film adaptations, I think it has to be that.

At least to begin with….

Do you have a favourite Austen novel?
Let me know in the comments below.

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