Last week The Guardian celebrated Jane Austen’s bicentenary by asking authors to name their favourite Austen novel.
Hilary Mantel bright and original as always chose Austen’s juvenilia which includes Love and Friendship (see link) which became one of the funniest films ever. Says our Hil “ did she ever write a straight sentence?….. was she cutting up her card board beaux in her mind even as she created them and laughing at her public as much at her characters”
Ian McEwan “Northanger Abbey profoundly influenced my novel Atonement…..No place for wild and foolish imaginings. Perhaps this is the very essence of modernity-always to believe one has arrived in one’s time at the summit of the modern”
Ahdaf Soueif. Sense and Sensibility.”Jane Austen’s novels change as you change…..S&S was not my favourite as it had neither Mr Darcy or Mr Knightly to satisfy an incorrigible urge towards a Romantic Hero. Edward Ferrars and Col Brandon seem more like diffident absences. Now I reflrct they are amongst the truest of Austen’s characters. For the world they live in is a world where no one may do what they really want … Austen’s genius is that you find in her a true reflection of what you, at a particular moment, think is reality.”
Claire Tomalin who wrote such a brilliant biography of Austen grabs most people’s number one Pride and Prejudice. Drama and wit,“Mrs Bennett’s least favourite daughter, Elizabeth,stands along side Shakespeare’s Rosalind as one of the most interesting heroines ever written and surpasses her by being more complex-multi stranded,capable of dark thoughts.”
Tessa Hadley “The moral universe in Mansfield Park gets more complicated(than P&P);Austen’s emotional range thickens and deepens, along with her novelistic technique…. In Mansfield Park jeopardy, the possibility of these young people making a mistake that could cost them a lifetime of unhappiness feels more real.”
(I did the book for A level and thought that heroine Fanny Price was one of the wettest girls I had ever come across. In the film they somehow introduced a lesbian element.)
Joyce Carol Oates. “Emma is the spreme novel of adolescence,ideally read when one is the heroine’s age-20. Our heroine’s “faults”-her vanity,short sightedness,peremptory behaviour-are flattering faults;commonplace and essentially trivial, not like the traits of meanness and duplicity.”
Margaret Drabble goes for Persuasion. 27 year old ,heroine Anne “objects to woman’s literary reputation for inconsistency, arguing that ‘men had every advantage in telling their story-the pen has always been in their hands’ and continues with rash, heartbreaking and revealing candour:”All the privilege I claim for my own sex(it is not an enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” She does of course get her man.