Books, life the universe

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Re-reading Jane Austen

I've been listening to audio books of Jane Austen's novels recently - Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and currently Pride and Prejudice. Apart from Sense and Sensibility all the versions I have are unabridged so they provide anywhere from 12 to 15 hours listening. Listening to them has prompted me to re-read the books. I started reading Sense and Sensibility yesterday and I'm about two thirds the way through it. If anyone had asked me before I would have said S & S was probably my least favourite but actually it is really good.

There is no violence, no sex - except by implication. Colonel Brandon's ward - later his sister-in-law - has an illegitimate child as does her child. But it is enthralling reading and all of human nature is here. The vulgar but very good hearted Mrs Jennings; the excitable Marianne; the sensible Elinor; the two Steele sisters - Lucy and Anne - Lucy sly and Anne not very clever; Willoughby - the arch villain - though even he has some redeeming features; Colonel Brandon - apparently dull but merely quiet and intelligent; the Middletons and the Ferrars.

The dialogue is well done though obviously more long winded than in the 21st century. The author's comments on the ways her characters behave and the morives for their actions are brilliant. Marianne simply says - rather rudely - she doesn't want to play cards - Elinor suggests to Lady Middleton she would be better employed helping Lucy with her filigree work as she is making a present for Lady Middleton's daughter - and thus achieves her aim (talking in private to Lucy) - and keeps everyone happy.

Jane Austen may have lived a restricted life but she had plenty of opportunities to study and analyse people and society in general and her observations are put to good use in her novels.

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