Welcome to another Thoughts On book review. You’ll see these pop up on my blog whenever I’ve found a book I just can’t put down.
Okay, so you’re at the beach.
You’ve staked out the perfect spot and nestled your collapsible beach chair into the warm sand around you. The sunscreen is on, the iPod is charged up, and you’re ready to sink your teeth into the first good summer read after a long, hard year of study. Your hand reaches into the mesh tote by your side…
And pulls out the complete works of Jane Austen.
Not exactly the happy-go-lucky beach read you were expecting, huh? Me neither! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for interpreting literary fiction, but come June all I want is to curl up in the sun with the latest Lauren Oliver and let my brain take a much needed respite.
However, I did decide this summer to challenge myself and earn some college credit along the way, so I embarked on a seven-week Jane Austen summer course hosted by my university. And, after reading six of Austen’s finished works, I realized that the only dreary thing about her literature is the weather!
True, it rains ninety percent of the time in these books and when it’s not raining, the plot consists of woodsy rambles, formal dances, and sophisticated conversation, but there is something else tucked in between the pages and pages (…and pages) of literature that makes these stories remain powerful today.
It’s the people.
Lydia Bennet and her raging hormones. Emma Woodhouse and her undeniable need to be involved in everyone’s personal business. No matter who you are or how uncoordinated of a dancer you may be, I guarantee you there is an Austenian character with whom you can relate, even in today’s world.
When you’re feeling overshadowed by the people around you, turn to Fanny Price for consolation. When the boy of your dreams doesn’t text back, Marianne Dashwood will totally understand. Lizzie Bennet is a friend to seek out when you’re dying for someone to appreciate your dry sense of humor. And when all you want to do is curl up with a good novel and let your imagination run wild, Catherine Morland will help you get lost in your wildest fantasies.
Austen taps into the core of human personality and splays joy, envy, intimate friendship, profuse stubbornness, and a million other relatable dispositions across the pages of every novel. Human nature comes to life in these characters. It’s visible in everything from how they treat each other to how they view themselves. They desire, they pity, they make mistakes, they go on adventures.
And all this in corsets, no less.
So to anyone who rebukes Austen’s literary fiction as “girl stories” or writing that is simply inaccessable, I’d encourage you to take another look.
Watch the movies. Read the Quirk adaptations. Try the novels themselves. However you need to do it, get yourself immersed in these stories. Because in the end, you’ll see that Austen’s characters aren’t just stuffy checkpoints in an outdated novel.
They’re people waiting to be rediscovered.