The end of July is coming soon, but I still have a little time to join in with #JaneAustenJuly and gush about one of my favorite authors!
Without further ado, let’s talk about Austen!
What’s your favorite Jane Austen book?
It’s a tie between Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion! I simply cannot choose between these two.
P&P was the first Austen book I ever read and it remains one of my favorite stories of all time, which I will happily revisit through retellings, adaptations, or simply rereading at every opportunity.
Writing a Persuasion retelling last year gave me a new appreciation for this book, so now it’s right up there as an all-time favorite. I also feel like I have to love it a little something extra to make up for the fact that it’s so under-appreciated!
Who is your favorite Jane Austen protagonist?
There’s something I love about all of Jane Austen’s protagonists, but I’m going to stay basic with my answer, because who else could I choose but Elizabeth Bennet?
Elizabeth is truly in a class of her own. There’s a reason she’s one of the most beloved literary characters in history; who could possibly read P&P without admiring her wit and liveliness? And she’s such a well-rounded, interesting character that I will never get tired of reading about her.
Name a book off of your shelves that you think Jane would wholeheartedly approve of and why
This was surprisingly difficult to choose! But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows feels like something that Jane would enjoy.
This historical novel is told through letters, following a woman who travels to a British island in 1946 to learn about the book club they formed during German occupation. Not only does this book understand the inherent romanticism of letter-writing (something that Jane obviously believes in), but it includes many of the aspects that make Austen’s novels so great: well-developed main characters against a backdrop of quirky side characters, people being Very British, sweet romance, and an appreciation for literature. I think Jane would approve!
Name a book off of your shelves that you think Jane would have hated and why
Instead of just choosing a book that I don’t like and claiming that Jane would also hate it (which I can’t really do anyway, since I don’t keep books that I don’t like on my shelves), I’m instead picking something that I do like. But I doubt that Jane would. And that book is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
First of all, this book is just so….modernist, which is not something that I think Jane would enjoy. And the characters are all legitimately awful. Not awful in a fun way like in Austen’s works, but just unlikeable people; Billy Pilgrim is (intentionally!) one of the blandest protagonists ever written. Vonnegut is much more concerned with Big Ideas and Concepts than characters. And since Austen’s books are so focused on characters and relationships, I think she would have little patience for this book.
Who is your favorite minor Jane Austen character?
Oh, so many! Austen excels in creating minor characters, so choosing only one is impossible. I’ll go with a couple…
First, Harriet Smith from Emma, because she’s so hapless and sweet and innocent. I want to wrap her in blankets and protect her from all the awful people in the world.
Next, Admiral and Mrs. Croft from Persuasion, because they just seem like the chillest people! Funny enough, they’re one of the only happily married couples that Austen writes, aside from her main couples. Love that for them.
Finally, Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice, of course! To me, she is one of the most interesting minor characters in Austen’s works, since she doesn’t really get what she wants but she still ends up more or less content. I would love to know more about her!
Name a book off of your shelves that you feel was somehow inspired by Jane Austen’s body of work
*side-eyes the multiple Austen retellings on my shelves* I mean…
Okay, besides than the obvious choices, there are a few books that feel like they could definitely have been influenced by Austen.
Pretty much every romance novel written probably owes at least a little to Austen, but Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston feels particularly Austen-esque. Between the well-developed characters, witty writing, and social commentary, I wouldn’t be surprised if Casey McQuiston was inspired somewhat by Jane’s works. Plus, Alex and Henry have a very Elizabeth-and-Darcy dynamic starting out. It’s about the yearning.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite might not exactly scream Jane Austen at first glance, but it certainly has some similarities. First, and most obviously, is the strong sister relationship at the heart of this book, which is almost always a theme in Austen’s books. And My Sister, the Serial Killer involves a lot of darkly witty commentary on how women are treated in society, which is very Jane Austen.
Which Jane Austen character do you simply love to hate?
Once again, it’s impossible to choose only one, because Austen is amazing at creating characters that are delightfully awful. So I’ve picked a few…
Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice, obviously, is one of the most iconically terrible characters in literature. She’s pretentious, condescending, and thinks her opinion is the Only Correct One in the World. I think we’ve all met a Lady Catherine in our lives, which makes her even more fun to hate.
Frank Churchill from Emma is a fantastic character even though he’s the actual WORST. Every time he shows up in a scene, he ruins everything, and I can’t look away like it’s a train wreck. Yes, he’s charming, but he’s infuriatingly privileged and self-centered! Jane 👏 Fairfax 👏 deserved 👏 better 👏
Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey makes me want to scream every time she shows up. Once again, we’ve all known an Isabella, right? Someone who loves taking advantage of others, pretending to be sweet and helpful while actually being the worst. Which is what makes her so brilliantly terrible! You can’t help but love to hate her.
What’s your favorite Jane Austen novel and protagonist? What books on your shelves do you think Jane would have liked or hated?