I’d like to think I’m well-read, but one author I’ve never had the pleasure of reading is, shockingly, Jane Austen.
I’ve already gotten a lecture on Book Hype about this, so you can spare me the incredulity. I’m not sure why I’ve never picked up one of her stories. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that I’ve been scared to take up any classics since being burned so brutally in the past.
I loved 1984 and Frankenstein, and there’s even a soft spot in my heart for Great Expectations, but I hated Oliver Twist and I can’t even begin to recount my absolute distaste for Moby Dick.
Reading Jane Austen just hasn’t seemed that important before now. But why now? Because of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, of course!
Wait — don’t leave! I promise I’m not just interested in Austen’s work because of the zombies. I mean…it’s not totally because of the zombies. The zombies are a very minimal part of the equation.
Jane Austen has been on my radar for a while, especially Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those books that, as a woman and especially as a woman who reads voraciously, I should have in my repertoire. I recognize that I don’t have to love Austen’s novels, but it’s important to at least be familiar with the texts so I can be a part of the conversation that will inevitably crop up at some point in my life. Plus there’s, like, a million Austen references in pop culture. They call it a classic for a reason, after all.
So, no, I’m not suddenly coming to a realization that I need Jane Austen in my life because of PPZ. (I feel the Austen fans in the room lowering their pitchforks hesitantly.) But the discussion of PPZ opened the conversation to something much bigger, which is my reluctance to visit classic literature I’ve never read. This includes many stories that other people had read in high school or college and often garners me some strange looks usually accompanied by a quirked eyebrow.
I’m ridiculously excited about PPZ, but I also want to make sure I understand the source material (rather, the source material’s source material). And it’s not just that. Everything I know about Jane Austen’s work is limited to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, the two web series that adapted Austen’s original work to a modern day setting.
I’ve always struggled with historical fiction, much preferring a story that takes place in my own time, but there’s a certain appeal to going back and discovering what life was like in the centuries that have come before us. I recently read another book, Da Vinci’s Tiger, which showed me that women can appear to conform to societal rules set upon them by the men of their time while also finding a way to rebel against those constraints and make their mark on history.
I hope Jane Austen’s works make me feel something similar. I plan to read Pride and Prejudice ahead of seeing PPZ, and if I enjoy it, I may even go back and read some of Austen’s other novels and watch their various adaptations. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be surprised and fall in love with her stories as much as I fell in love with Mary Shelley’s. It’s not my usual fare, but there’s a reason why so many people love them, right?
What is is about Jane Austen’s books that makes them so engaging? Some of the Hypable staff think it has to do with the timeless heroines, but I’d like to know why you love them and what I should be aware of while I dive into Austen’s various worlds.