Re-Reading Jane Austen

My book club has chosen to read Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  I have a tattered old paperback copy sitting on my book shelf, along with the complete collected works of Jane Austen in a leather-bound hard cover.  Though I would have probably enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice (that proper Mr. Darcy!), Sense and Sensibility, or Emma (the bumbling but likeable matchmaker) more, I was looking forward to delving into and re-reading Persuasion because it has been years since I’ve read any of Austen’s work.

In some ways, I find myself surprised that Jane Austen has gained such popularity amongst book clubs, supported by so many recent movies in the past two decades.  Though her writing is superb, many of her stories and characters come from common backgrounds and follow similar fates.  In effect, they are romances set in a specific time period, yet they have somehow transcended from romantic period pieces to classics.

I read everything Austen in high school, as a teenager steadfastly attached to my independent ways yet somehow still hopeful for that happily-ever-after.  Jane Austen suited my taste back then.  I find I still enjoy her writing, particularly her understated humor and wit as she exaggerates her characters’ quirks and flaws.  However, it’s not the same as reading her books for the first time during that adolescent phase in my life.

In a conversation with my brother yesterday, he summarized it best, saying that most people who discover Jane Austen tend to appreciate her work during a specific and brief time period in their lives and then move on to other authors, as if finishing that chapter in their reading habits.

Jane Austen will always be Jane Austen, but I am no longer that teenage girl reading her work for the first time.


  1. i think she transcends time and place because it’s telenovella for the brainiac bunch.

    there’s nothing new in tales of love and entanglements…and she spins the stories well.

    i was incapable of reading her when i was supposed to (college) and can appreciate her wit now.

  2. My good friend from high school turned me on to Jane Austen after college and I became an addict, reading alot of her books and becoming engrossed in the characters and romance. My bookclub has also suggested re-reading some of the classics, such as Pride and Prejudice, so maybe one of these days I’ll get around to picking it up again.

  3. Austen pokes a lot of fun at the marriage convention of her time. And it’s revealing knowing she – and her sister – never married. There are comic couples, like the girls’ parents in P&P, and Mr. Collins and his wife, both illustrating what happens later, when those not married by personal choice get older, and all the frustration and bickering that goes on. The woman who marries Mr. Collins (was that Charlotte?) even tells Emma she doesn’t love or want him, she just doesn’t want to be a spinster. ‘Persuasion’ is an incredibly sad novel, written when Austen was ill with the disease that would kill her. All the longing in the book… One has to wonder if she’s not saying she’s either missing someone or should have married. I find it her best work, overall, though it’s not as entertaining as the others. The reason Austen is so enduring is her biting wit, and for many the romantic endings. And that is conventional, I agree, but there’s an undercurrent of sarcasm to her, a snark I just love. I recommend her letters. She and her sister pick everyone to shreds, and it’s just hilarious. She had a streak of wicked I love.

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