With Bellevere House coming up for sale next week, I thought I’d post a bit about Jane Austen. When I was growing up, JA saturated my house because of my mother. Some of my earliest creative efforts involved making little picture books of Pride and Prejudice, although I haven’t been interested in the story since. She really was just wallpaper and I didn’t think she was interesting. She was just there.
After working on the JA project, I began to rethink this author and her fans. My mother was not typical. Her view was old-fashioned even when she was young (the 1960s) and one of the few other fan-type commentaries she enjoyed was a book written in the 1940s. The 1940s. So I wasn’t prepared for the 21st century fans, or even late 20th century fans. The cult. The explosion. The Jane Austen girls. I didn’t know who these people were and I didn’t overly care. But I did gradually notice their movies and fanfiction had a tone I didn’t expect. Some of the movies were dark, sleazy, or bizarre; others droning, angsty, or a bit odd when portraying characters. (Such as Harriet.)
I hadn’t thought of working with any of the novels in an in-depth way and I lumped them all together as DeBooksByJehnAusten. (Sounds like a name for a fan website, doesn’t it?) Once I did, I noticed surprising things, and when I watched the movies closely, instead of casually, I saw more. And then I was reminded of that old 1940s book. The authors of that book had rated the novels from best to worst and I’d wondered why they put P&P so near the bottom and Emma so near the top. True, I didn’t care about P&P—but didn’t everyone love it? And EMMA? Boring, BORING Emma at the top??
I came to feel that was entirely true. Their list was pretty much accurate. Even then, they were seeing something I wasn’t in these books. And after I overheard someone talking about the parents in JA, as a way to rate the books, I saw they also all agreed. So here, partly based on them, partly on personal experience, is my official Jane Austen list.
And there will be more updates.
I live surrounded by cultivated fields that rapidly give way to wild flowers, wild plants, and wild life. I get most of my ideas while drifting innocuously around my house and some of those ideas get into print.