I have my suspicions about the Austen craze, and naturally they begin with the fact that Jane Austen was an intelligent, eloquent, witty writer with a deep understanding of the human heart and mind, a clever sense of humor, and a thorough grasp of character. In her six published novels alone she has given us, as readers and writers--not to mention producers, actors, and directors--so very much to inspire us. Many readers will only ever read a single one of her works--most likely an assignment for a literature class. Odds are it will be her masterpiece Pride & Prejudice. Very few classics are as thoroughly readable as Pride & Prejudice. Reading it feels almost as if you're having a gossipy chat with a somewhat old-fashioned, perhaps slightly wordy by today's standards, acquaintance. (I can tell you I never once felt like chatting with Ishmael, Ahab, or the whale while reading Moby Dick.) The storyline is at once intriguing and relatable: you can't help but wonder whether Darcy will overcome his pride and Elizabeth her prejudice. (And you're not alone if you fall even a little bit in love with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy...). Pride & Prejudice is, at its heart, a romance. It's a romance that doesn't dwell on life's hardships and tragedies, focusing instead on the vagaries and love and courtship. And still, it's considered a classic.
Many people will tell you that they don't read romances. And yet they love Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice is the story of two people who meet and immediately dislike each other. As the story progresses, they come to know each other better, overcome their differences, and eventually fall in love. Sounds like a classic romance storyline to me... And her other five novels can be similarly categorized. I think Jane Austen eases the way for readers who might be resistant to the romance genre. They can content themselves with reading a classic. Or, if they've exhausted Jane's offerings, they can move on to the authors who've taken up their pens to continue or expand upon her stories--these novels have a literary bent--they're brushing elbows with the classics. It's the perfect compromise, and everyone's pleased, because who doesn't love a happy ending?
This may explain why so many are willing to give Jane Austen a try, but it does not explain by half why Jane has developed such a devoted, almost cultish following. I believe the reason for that is her characters. A good writer may write any sort of character, but Jane's legacy is six books chock full of wonderful, memorable characters. It is not only Mr. Darcy that we love in Pride & Prejudice...although we do love him. But so too do we love Elizabeth (wonderfully witty and self-possessed) and Jane (lovely and kind), Mr. & Mrs. Bennet (the hilarity is perfection), Mr. Collins (so preposterous!), Lady Catherine de Bourgh (what presumption!), Wickham and Lydia (unbelievable!), and all the rest. They are what makes the book. Without these characters the writing might still be wonderful, but it wouldn't capture us as it does. It wouldn't have us yearning to carry on the stories, to imagine new situations and predicaments for these characters, to hold on to Jane for just a little longer.
AUSTENTATIOUS is my imagining of what might happen if Jane was still hanging around, supernaturally speaking. If she wasn't quite done with romance yet. If she was actively interceding on the behalf of the romantically challenged in the form of a fairy godmother. Fairy Jane to be exact. The book also taps into the Darcy mystique--the idea of a sexy, yet unapproachable man who, against all odds, becomes the stuff of daydreams... AUSTENTATIOUS is, at its heart, a romance--I did learn from the master.
So, why do you read Austen?
Mr. Darcy t-shirt from here; totebag from here
What happens when an eighteenth century literary darling magically pops up in the weirdest city in Texas? Magic and weird collide in AUSTENTATIOUS, the story of Nicola James, a left-brainer with a Jane Austen obsession and a carefully finessed life plan. A plan that doesn’t include an enchanted journal or an interfering fairy godmother, who just might be the spirit of Jane Austen herself.
When Nicola discovers her journal entries mysteriously whittled down to a cheeky bit of commentary on her life, she’s freaked first, skeptical second, and finally downright curious. She can’t help but keep writing, dueling really, with a two-dimensional fairy godmother she doesn’t totally believe in. Soon, the witty little notes start coming true, screwing with her plans, her head, and her life, and nudging her towards an impossible—and impossibly seductive—romance with a man who’s inarguably wrong for her. Nicola’s torn, trapped between a life that makes sense and a man who doesn’t, with “Fairy Jane” wedged in the middle, relentlessly rooting for another “Mr. Darcy”.
Until next time....happy reading!