Home CommentaryOpinions Note to Shelf: My Jane Austen Experience

Note to Shelf: My Jane Austen Experience

by Youmna El Halabi November 19, 2019
Note to Shelf: My Jane Austen Experience

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an alarmingly high number of readers have gone through at least one of Jane Austen’s novels. 

In fact, it is a moral imperative to read at least one of her books in your lifetime.

Austen is known as one of the most revolutionary writers of English literature, not only for being one of the few female authors of her time, but for exposing the many struggles women face in society. Despite all her stories ending in matrimony, she makes sure to focus on the importance of romance, understanding, and a person’s good nature in any relationship.

I honestly feel like a fraud writing about Jane Austen, when I’ve only read two of her novels, and gagged through the other four, but hey, it’s my column *kid shrug.*

I have been a book-devourer for the past 10 years, and have only read Northanger Abbey, and the ever-coveted Pride and Prejudice

How monstrous do I have to be to gag through Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion? I’ll tell you why: I started with her best-seller.

Reading Pride and Prejudice at 14 was a bit of a hassle — but then again, every book I read at that age was tough to get through. I wanted to improve my vocabulary by reading classics, and hone my English skills. Thing is, by doing so, I missed out on actually enjoying the story and characters, and ended up hating the novel.

Two years later, it was assigned as a reading  for a class, and by then I was actually excited to read it again — and it did not disappoint. From the obvious dream-boat that is Mr. Darcy, to the ever-so-popular, snarky, tenacious, and spirited Elizabeth Bennet, this book easily became one of my favourite classics to date. I find myself reading it over and over again every year, because nothing compares to the fluttering butterflies that Austen’s descriptive passages incite in me — from Darcy’s enamoured gazes, to his devoted and loving words.

Having enjoyed this novel so much the second time around, I decided to broaden my Jane Austen library and purchase all of her books. Unfortunately, none of them had the same effect. Northanger Abbey came pretty close, in spite of Austen’s blatant criticism of gothic literature, an unsurprisingly favourite genre of mine, but the other four were a nightmare.

Persuasion was too confusing, Mansfield Park a dreaded bore, I didn’t even make it past the first chapter of Sense and Sensibility, and Emma really infuriated me. 

As cliché and untruthful as this might sound, I think my downfall was starting at the top of the pyramid instead of working my way up. What do I mean by that? Pride and Prejudice is known for putting Austen on the map as one of the most renowned authors in English literature. This is why it is present in most school curriculums. Although it isn’t her last book, it is, in my opinion, her finest work. Some would disagree with me, claiming Pride and Prejudice to be overrated and basic. Perhaps they’re right, and I’m wrong, but again, it’s my column, so *hush.*

Word of advice to ye who chooseth to venture into the realm of Jane the Austen: maybe leave Mr. Darcy for last.

 

Photo by Laurence B.D.

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