Back in 2019, one of my friends was talking about how much she loved Austen and how I really needed to give her a chance. She was one of many people I’d met who loved Austen, but had never anything beyond Pride and Prejudice, and it just seemed strange to me. I hadn’t really loved the film adaptation of P&P, and I couldn’t understand the pull behind it, but so many people specifically loved this one and had never tried anything else, so it got me thinking if there was more than just P&P. And this is no shade on P&P, I can understand why everyone loves it, it’s just not the best. I set out three years ago to read all six, and I’ve finally finished the last of them, and I can say, with a lot of snobbery, that I am way more of an Austen fan than the Pride and Prejudice is my life ones.
Lowkey love that I read four of them in 2019, and then it was like the pandemic hit, and I just said nahhhhh. Real, though, very real, I don’t know that I would have liked Austen at the start of all the bullshit.
I started Pride and Prejudice on 2/7, and I think it says a lot that I finished it only a week later on 2/13. Classics are usually something I take my sweet time with, and though P&P is probably last on my ranking, I very much enjoyed it, and I read it much faster than I have most other classics. And there is something very classic about this story. I mean, I get it, I know why people like it. (Kind of, Darcy’s an absolute asshole at all times.) It’s boy likes girl so much that he doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he just doesn’t do anything at all, and girl is so over boy that she ignores him completely except for when she really, really doesn’t. It’s pining that we are absolutely not going to call pining, how dare you, and it’s practically an aesthetic at this point, this level of longing. There’s not a whole lot extra I can think of to say about P&P that hasn’t been said before, particularly because, about twenty-five pages into my next read, I could not fathom calling this my favorite.
We haven’t yet reached my favorite, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility in a way that fully converted me to wanting to read Austen’s other novels. P&P felt like a rite of passage, for S&S was my first real level of true enjoyment. The characters were interesting, the story was captivating, and I found myself actually engaging with it like I hadn’t quite managed to before. I was eager to see who Elinor ended up with, and I was frustrated with the way things were going for her. This was right before I started my now necessary thing of Googling who the romantic couple is in Austen novels so I can actually pay attention to the eight thousand names in a coherent way, so I was bummed about Elinor’s eventual ending, but S&S was like a window opening to all the potential love I could find in Austen’s novels.
Gonna be controversial for a second here. If you don’t like Emma, I don’t really understand you. It’s like not liking Don Quixote. You clearly haven’t understood what you’ve been presented with, and I’m confused on your part because Emma is downright hilarious. The recent film adaptation was so spot on because it’s chaotic, it’s way too brightly colored, people are running around and shrieking about nothing at all, and Emma is just giddy madness personified. This novel is such a trip, and I feel so bad for people who don’t like it. It’s easily one of the most fun books I’ve ever read, and I had a damn good time doing so. I was constantly laughing, Miss Bates has my whole heart and soul, and we are really out here hyping up Darcy when Knightley’s just over here if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. Y’ALL. GET WITH THE PROGRAM. Knightley is still, after all six novels, my favorite Austen love interest, and while I may not reread P&P and S&S, I am 100% going to reread Emma. It is, hands down, my favorite Austen, and it is the definition of joy.
I’m looking back on my Northanger Abbey review and cackling a little because wow, I really did not like the first half of this book. I definitely look back on it differently now, but I think I might be solely thinking of the second half of the book when I do so because I usually tell people that it’s all morose and sad and spooky Gothic horror, and then Austen went full parody and just made fun of all those things for the entirety of the second half, which she did, but I forgot about the Thorpe’s. I had a huge problem with the entire Thorpe family, and I wanted to trip them off a very tall cliff, and I still stand by this, but Northanger Abbey is worth it, whatever my previous self might have said. The first half is a struggle, but the second half is a delight, and while Catherine is a lot, she comes out alright in the end.
Confession time: as I’m drafting this, I haven’t yet read Mansfield Park, but I just had so much damn fun listening to Persuasion that I’m very confident I’ll have it read in no time. Listening to Austen was twofold. One: I was travelling abroad and wanted more books than I could bring. Two: I shop for Austen at flea markets, and I don’t yet own Persuasion or Mansfield Park. Thus, I figured I’d listen to one of the free versions, and oh my gosh, I think I might love classics as audiobooks. I’m so excited to listen to Mansfield Park after the sheer joy that was listening to Persuasion, and I can’t wait to go back and do the same with Emma. But to the book at hand! I think Persuasion might be my second favorite Austen. It is, wildly, the only one I’ve rated five stars (I’ve since rectified that, obviously Emma gets five), and I also do not understand why people don’t love this one more. Though Emma remains my favorite book, Anne is definitely my favorite Austen heroine. Not only is she the most collected and least dramatic of all of them, she knows what she wants, and she’s going to settle for nothing less. She is so self-aware and self-less, and I just really love her. She’s 100% ready to settle down alone because she loves her own company, and her eventual union with Wentworth is because they’re friends, and she enjoys his company, and she wants more, not because she feels like she has to, or because there’s so much angst and drama surrounding it. (I mean, there is, but of a much different caliber.) She’s just so put together, and while I can understand the appeal of drama, Anne’s where it’s at for me.
Soooooo, I DNF’d Mansfield Park. I looked at some of the reviews around four hours in because I really wasn’t enjoying it, and what I saw reflected there confirmed everything I was feeling, and I just did not feel like spending another ten hours dragging myself through the audiobook when I’ve been struggling to read lately, so I just didn’t. I’d like to say that someday I’ll go back to it, but that also seems unlikely because I didn’t like Fanny, I hated all the characters around her, and there was just so much highbrow holier than thou rhetoric happening that I could not be bothered with continuing to listen to it.
I can’t believe we’re at the end of this project to read everything by Austen. I was pleasantly surprised with P&P and S&S, and Emma knocked my expectations so far out of the park that I can happily say that I am an Austen fan now. I will definitely be rereading at least Emma, and I can’t wait to watch all of the adaptations.
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