Monday, 7 November 2011

What Would Jane Do...

One of the main factors I loving books and reading as much as I do is because of Jane Austen. I have been a fan since a very early age and can clearly remember my very first Austen purchase. I was at primary school and must have been nine or ten. My class had been marched to our local secondary school to attend a book fair, each pupil armed with a voucher to put towards a new book. While friends were buying Roald Dahl or Jacqueline Wilson, my chosen book was Emma by a certain Jane Austen. I remember my teacher being very surprised! I don't know why I bought it, but the cover somehow appealed to me. It took me a while to read and I didn't understand the full wit at that age, but I still enjoyed it and have been hooked on her work ever since.

It was also around that age that I enjoyed watching the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Since then I have read the book too many times to remember and the DVD is still my favourite way to spend a wintry evening, curled up with a blanket, drinking hot chocolate. P&P is my favourite Austen novel. I love the range of colourful characters, the witty dialogue, the locations and the feistiness of Miss Elizabeth Bennett. I have read so many spin-offs including the love it or hate it Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the seaside set Prawn and Prejudice and Amanda Knight's Mr Darcy's Diary. I even have an interactive adventure called Being Elizabeth Bennett and a personalised version featuring my name rather than Elizabeth's!

It's not just Austen's most popular novel I love though. Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, although about common themes such as relationships and status all feature strong female characters and prove that Austen was a brave writer, way head of her time. Her protagonists are women who all want to shape their own future rather than depending on family and marriage and reflect Jane's own thoughts and feelings, not being as independant as she wanted to be.

As well as the novels, my Austen bookshelf includes her short stories The Watsons and Lady Susan and unfinished novel Sandition, plus a collection of letters to her sister Cassandra which give a great insight into her life.

One of my favourite places is the lovely Jane Austen Centre in Bath, which features in my opinion, the best shop in the world, full of books and Austen merchandise, much of which is now in my house! My ultimate ambition is to take part in the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, prancing around in regency costume! I also love visiting Austen film and TV locations, my favourite being Basildon Park, Netherfield in the Oscar winning film starring Keira Knightley.

My love of all thing's Austen will continue throughout my whole life. I love the books, fashion and language and discovering new adaptations. Next on my list to read is PD James' Death Comes To Pemberley and I look forward to finding out more about Jane's amazing work.   

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