30 Day Book Challenge: Day 2

My Least Favourite Book

There, I said it.  I know I’ve made no secret of the fact that I can. not. stand. Jane Austen (but I can spell her name right, unlike many of her fans!), but this book made me SO ANGRY when I read it, that I almost didn’t read Pride and Prejudice (which was included in the library edition I had picked up for a quarter at a sale) – I should have just given up, because I thought P+P was almost as bad.

I have tried and tried and tried to see what it is that everyone loves about Austen, but her writing isn’t my thing at all.  Her prose is fine and all, but the dialogue is horrible and trite, and I hate her characters – I wanted to smack Marianne and someone needed to crotch punch Willoughby – I don’t care for reading 200 year old gossip, which was what this felt like to me.

Blergh.  Never again.

I can probably say with all honesty that Jane Austen kind of turned me off of classic literature.  Prior to reading these, I’d read a ton of classics (on my own, we didn’t have to read them in school), but can’t think of many I’ve read since then.

Sorry Austenites, but I think this quote from Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair sums up my feelings nicely:

Jane Eyre was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, a suitably neuter name that disguised Charlotte Brontë’s sex. It was a great success, William Thackeray described the novel as ‘The master work of a great genius.’ Not that the book was without its critics: GH Lewes suggested that Charlotte should study Austen’s work and ‘correct her shortcomings in the light of that great artist’s practice.’ Charlotte replied that Miss Austen’s work was barely – in the light of what she wanted to do – a novel at all. She referred to it as ‘a highly cultivated garden with no open country.’ The jury is still out.

Things I Learned from Reading Jane Austen

  1. 19th century women frequently wasted away of broken hearts, much like Tolkien’s elves.
  2. Bitches were crazy for gossip even then – they just had longer travel times and no telephones.
  3. A 35 year old man IS TOO OLD to be looking to get married.
  4. Be prepared to settle.

32 thoughts on “30 Day Book Challenge: Day 2

  1. I already told you most of this, but for posterity:

    I liked Emma and P&P fine, but you have to wade though SO MUCH CRAP to get to the action I get itchy. I’m not meant for books that move this slow. I have book-ADD.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go waste away from a heart full of breakedy-brokenness. I’m much too old to find a suitor. *sobs* *falls on fainting couch* *prepares to settle*

  2. I’m glad that I am not the only one who finds Austen to be gossip – just historical gossip. Why was this considered proper for a young lady reader? Even in the 90s when I was in HS? Sigh……

    • I’ve wondered the same thing, why this is supposed to be appropriate reading material for young girls. It’s probably my own prejudices showing, but I feel like the Brontës are more worthy of that starry-eyed adulation. I just don’t get the Austen worship.

    • You know, I didn’t even realize until I was looking for that Fforde quote last night that it was something she’d actually said! It kind of makes me happy to learn that, because I just don’t understand the fangirliness that surrounds Austen.

      I don’t begrudge anyone else their feelings (for example, I quite enjoyed Battlefield Earth, which everyone else seems to hate [the book, I mean], but I can understand that it’s not for everyone), but this kind of reminds me of the LotR movies, really. I don’t like them, but I don’t dislike the people who do. I think many people have a difficult time acknowledging that just because I dislike something you like, it doesn’t mean I think any less of them. [shrug]

      • I remember telling my aunt (a librarian and writer) that I didn’t like Pride and Prejudice. She totally judged me. But it was probably just her personality. She’d judge me if I told her it was raining.

  3. I’m not a Jane Austen fangirl, but I do like Pride and Prejudice. It makes me laugh out loud. I get the impression that Austen didn’t take any of that stuff seriously–at least in Pride and Prejudice, she was making fun of those silly conventions, not touting them. I could be wrong, but knowing a few things about her personal history as a woman, I’m pretty sure she found all of that junk just as silly as we do.

    I don’t remember much about her other books, but I’m reading them for the Classics Club, so we’ll see how I feel about the others now that I’m an adult reading them.

    • I’ve read a bunch of her letters (mostly when I was trying to figure out the hype), and I understand what she was trying to do, but I felt that it came across as a bunch of people I don’t care about sitting around talking shit about a bunch of other people I don’t care about.

      Part of me feels like I’m broken because girls are supposed to like Austen, but I just don’t. Seriously, when I was looking at this book on Goodreads last night, the positive reviews outweigh the negatives 15 to 1.

      • You’re not broken for not being a big fan. I find Austen entertaining enough, but really just ok. And no, she doesn’t hold a candle to any of the Brontes. To be honest, I think she was the chick lit of her time but for whatever reason just gets taken more seriously.

  4. Yeah, the whole “35 is oooolllld” thing, and especially the “be prepared to settle” thing, bothered me about this book. Good, sensible Elinor gets to marry the guy she really loves, while silly romantic Marianne is pushed into marrying a guy she has no strong feelings for because, gosh, he’s been through so much in the past and he deserves a nice girl! And Marianne will just have to give up her dreams, because she’s been such a silly romantic and needs to be tamed.

    • “silly romantic Marianne is pushed into marrying a guy she has no strong feelings for because, gosh, he’s been through so much in the past and he deserves a nice girl!”

      No! No! That’s not what she’s saying at all! Austen loves Marianne! She’s not calling her silly, she’s calling out the society that makes it necessary for a young, inexperienced, innocent girl to be reserved in her feelings or risk censure. Look at what happened to Elinor: she wasn’t “allowed” to be forthright in her feelings for Edward, which puts her at Lucy Steele’s mercy. And check the ending about Marianne:

      “Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another!

      But so it was. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting… she found herself, at nineteen, submitting to new attachments… Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.”

      Austen is being sarcastic at the beginning by pretending to express shock that someone would ever have different opinions than they did at the age of 17. Then she goes on to say that Marianne has a marriage in which passion is based on respect and friendship, rather than one that is based on an empty passion. Austen doesn’t think Colonel Brandon is old; 17 year old Marianne does.

      Of course, none of this means you have to like Austen, though I’m clearly a devotee. ;)

  5. That’s funny :) I am in the middle of reading Jane Eyre for the first time and I keep wishing it was more Jane Austen-y. I like the humor in Austen’s novels and Jane Eyre has not been very funny so far :)

  6. SJ, don’t hate me! I do like Jane Austen, mostly because I love the prose. The slow reads, not so much. I have to admit that a glimpse into the triteness of social life for mid-upperclass women fascinates me in it’s banality. Maybe it’s like ‘Meet the Kardashians’ for classical, bookish, linguistic, anthropology nerds like me? Charlotte Bronte has got it going on though, fo’ sho’!! ;)

    • Audrey, you silly! I don’t hate you for liking Jane Austen!

      I have accepted that I’m WAY in the minority here. I just get SO BORED when I’m reading her books. I can’t even watch that Kardashian show (heh) because it is just not something I’m interested in.

      I’m the first to admit that I don’t always read the most high-brow literature, I only judge people if they don’t read. Promise.

      • Oh yes, I know! ;) And I understand the boredom part for sure. It took me a few years to get through P & P… Dare I admit that? Sense & Sensability is a pretty rough read though, I can see it being a lesser favorite. Would you believe I’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Better get on it!! :)

Comments make us happy. Leave lots of comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s