Updated: Dec 9, 2022
A perennial Hollywood favorite, Jane Austen books are the basis for a number of films featuring her English Georgian female protagonists.
I was shocked to discover that the movie Clueless (1995) was a Jane Austen adaptation of Emma. Of course other more notable adaptations are Metropolitan (1995), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Persuasion (1995), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Emma (1996), and Mansfield Park (1999). That was only the 1990s!
“I must admit, I have never read Jane Austen. Thankfully, my guest editor for this post, Alice McVeigh has.”
I was fortunate to interview Alice McVeigh who has written "Jane Austenesque" novels. See the interview here.
Alice McVeigh (pen name for speculative fiction: Spaulding Taylor) was born in South Korea, of American diplomatic parents, and lived in Asia until she was 13, when the family returned to Washington D.C. Alice McVeigh is a London-based ghost writer previously published by Orion Publishing in contemporary fiction (While the Music Lasts and Ghost Music). A professional cellist, who performed for over fifteen years with orchestras including the BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic. She is married with one daughter, is addicted to tennis, and spends part of every year in Crete. Find out more about Alice here: https://alicemcveigh.com/
Seven Reasons Why You Should Read
Jane Austen by Alice McVeigh
The best reason is that there's always something new to find in Austen. Her exploration of human nature is endlessly fascinating. I've read EMMA, for example, over 35 times and know lots of it by heart. So... what's new to find? A yawn, right? Wrong. Because, as I grow I suddenly see new things, look deeper. For example, the character of Emma actually changed WITH me. A lot of readers don't like Emma - she's "rich, handsome and clever" and very conceited at the beginning of the book and likes to manipulate people. When I "met" her at 18, I detested her, even at the end of the book, after she's matured and changed. In my 20s, I still found her odiously self-satisfied. In my 30s, I began to feel sorry for her self-delusion - not to mention her family situation. In my 40s, I finally understood her - her boredom, the nature of her feeling trapped - and now she's my favorite Jane Austen heroine. So, every word Jane Austen wrote is the same now that I'm 50 as when I was 18 but I can see farther now.
Even Jane Austen's minor characters, that don't develop, are gems.
Once you've read even three out of the six of her novels, you perfectly comprehend the time - a time when young men weren't allowed to go on walks alone with young women without a chaperone. When second sons faced a life lottery but the eldest were sitting pretty. When women, like Austen herself, were dependent on the charity of relatives. When there was no career route of escape even for some men.
Books are termed "classics" for a reason, and - even if you hate them - except for Moby Dick - have never finished Moby Dick - it's part of being an educated person to have read them. In Austen's case, I always recommend people start with Pride and Prejudice, even though it seriously annoys me that - because of the billionaire fiction element - it is LITERALLY more famous than Austen is herself.
Some of the movie adaptations of Jane Austen are very good. Some of them are awful, though. There are Facebook sites with 60,000 fans doing nothing but arguing about what works and what doesn't in all the films. You really have to have read the books, though, to have a valid opinion, or else get shot down in flames, and resign in a temper.
Read Jane Austen for the stylish dialogue. Changing the dialogue is what wrecks half the adaptations, frankly. I mean you have the immortal dialogue of Austen's subtlest novel, Persuasion, and, only this year Netflix has the heroine swigging wine from bottles in the morning and complaining about herself and the hero being 'exes'. Give me strength.
Read Jane Austen for the escapism. Jane "Austenesque" books boomed during the pandemic lockdown. However, half the writers I know started churning out dystopian thrillers about pandemics. These writers were nuts. The last thing any sane person wants to read when living in a dystopian world is, uh, a novel set on a dystopian Earth. Instead, people longed to escape. Now, actually LIVING in the Regency period was totally not fun. Ninety-nine percent of people were very poor and hungry. Most women weren't allowed to own property and even rich women often died in childbirth. But people don't want to necessarily read about that, instead they read about the 1% featuring glorious houses, pretty gowns, and clever comments at divine balls. So, let's hear it for Austen's classic, witty, elegant, endlessly discoverable means of escape!!!
There you have it Bookaholics. If you haven't read any Jane Austen, you should pick up one of her books today. Thank you so much Alice McVeigh.