If you want to read about love – the good bits, the bad and the ugly – then Jane Austen is a perfect choice. The plots and themes of her novels are built on relationships and love. Will Elizabeth Bennet marry Mr Darcy? Will Fanny Price win her cousin Edmund’s heart? And will Emma ever realize that she loves Mr Knightley?
Austen is marketed as ‘chick lit’ but of course there’s more to her novels than this. Lizzie Bennet has to learn that first impressions can be misleading, and that Mr Darcy’s pride has more depth and character than Mr Wickham’s deceptive charm. Fanny Price suffers greatly while she clings to her values in the family conflicts that poison life at Mansfield Park, and Emma’s self-knowledge is painfully and slowly achieved. Austen’s fiction is rife with jealousy, resentment, selfishness and greed (think of Anne Elliot’s family in Persuasion, or the opening chapters of Sense and Sensibility.) There’s even sex before marriage and adultery in two of the novels! – it’s not all hearts and flowers in the romance and courtship in Austen’s world.
So, sit down with a box of chocolates and your favourite Jane Austen novel this weekend (mine is Mansfield Park) and enjoy her sparkling prose and fascinating characters. She’s not chick lit, but she’s fabulous to read.