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Yes! I read the six Jane Austen books years ago. This year I re-read Pride and Prejudice (this was the fourth time) and Emma (this was the second time). I also read two biographies about Jane Austen this year: "Jane Austen," by Carol Shields; and "Jane Austen: a Life," by Claire Tomalin. I really loved Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen. It has a family tree in the back, so you can see how all the people mentioned are related. There is also a map in the front of the book that shows the Steventon home where Jane lived until she was 25 years old, and the houses and names of the families that lived in them -- these same families are mentioned over and over in Jane's letters. I also read "Jane Austen: a Companion," by Josephine Ross. There are only 44 pages of biography in this book -- and the rest of the book is devoted to fashions in JA's time; books she and her family read; the food they ate and the drinks they drank in her time and in her books; how the postal system worked in her time. It was also extremely interesting!

I was shocked to read about Jane Austen's mother's system of bringing up babies. Jane had one sister and six brothers. All the babies were born at home. Jane's mother would nurse each baby for a few months, and then place the baby with a woman who lived in the village. The baby would not be brought back to the Austen home until "it reached the age of reason," about 12 or 18 months later! Claire Tomalin said Mrs. Austen did not view this practice as a banishment or a cruel practice! Interestingly enough, none of Jane's siblings raised their children this way. Jane was not particularly close to her mother. Instead, Jane and her older sister Cassandra were extremely close. They shared a bedroom their entire lives -- even after they were adults and lived in a house where each one could have her own bedroom.

My favorite of all her books is Pride and Prejudice. For anyone else reading this thread who is not familiar with her books, the others are:

Sense and Sensibility

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Emma

The books are not a series. The characters in each book are different. Jane Austen is such a classic author that every public library will have at least some of her books.
 

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I've read all her books, including the ones the ones listed above and her other minor works; Lady Susan, The Watsons (incomplete) and Sanditon (incomplete).

My favorite is Pride and Prejudice. I've read this book so many times it's quite silly in fact and watch the A&E/ BBC film version of this several times a year. Colin Furth as Mr Darcy is just yummy! :)

I should more than likely read some of the biographies but just haven't gotten along to it yet. I have picked up some "take off" books written as a continuation of her books but by modern authors. Stories that continue on about Miss Darcy and her beau; Lizzies girls when they start courting, etc. They are far from Jane Austen but fun to read none the less.

Enjoy!
 

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I like Jane's stories and characters but I think she spends way too much time talking about money. It seems a bit obssive, like all the characters are ranked by how much money they make. I find that I like the movie versions better because they cut out a lot of the money talk. Usually I almost alway like books better than the movie version except for Jane's books. If she just cut out 2/3 of the money talk the stories would be perfect.

Ok, flame away.
 

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MamaVolpe said:
I like Jane's stories and characters but I think she spends way too much time talking about money. It seems a bit obssive
But money is what Jane Austin's books are about... They're about young, poor women, who foremost *must* marry as wealthy a man as they can, or live miserably for the rest of their lives as appendages to other "successful" womens' households. Being unable to make their own way in a restrictive, patriarchal society, they shop for husbands obsessively. I admit it's dire, but that's the reality. They're not romance novels.

I love Jane Austin's use of the English language, but the repetitive theme of women forced to sell themselves to the highest bidder is so very sad, I no longer really enjoy them.
 

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Julia said:
But money is what Jane Austin's books are about... They're about young, poor women, who foremost *must* marry as wealthy a man as they can, or live miserably for the rest of their lives as appendages to other "successful" womens' households. Being unable to make their own way in a restrictive, patriarchal society, they shop for husbands obsessively. I admit it's dire, but that's the reality. They're not romance novels.

I love Jane Austin's use of the English language, but the repetitive theme of women forced to sell themselves to the highest bidder is so very sad, I no longer really enjoy them.
I agree with some of what you say. These are not just love stories and that's why they're so good, and so much better than the movies IMO. Cutting out the "money talk" makes the characters seem rather silly and greedy. In that culture at that time, marriage was a VERY serious business for a young gentlewoman. Unless she happened to be born very, very rich, it would determine the manner in which she would live for the rest of her life. It was her only profession, really, her only way of making her way in the world, as gentlewomen were prevented by social norms from going out and getting jobs to support themselves. The young women in Austen's novels are not just chasing men; they're planning their life's course, as a young woman today might train in computers or go to medical school. The stakes were high: their futures. The perfect future, according to Austen, would be one of both economic and emotional stability. The perfect husband woud be one who had financial resources AND a good character AND a mind and temperament suited to one's own. If any one of those three attributes were lacking, marriage (and therefore a woman's future) could be disastrous.

That is why the mis-marriages are so unhappy in Austen's stories: Fanny's mother who marries a poor young man because he was charming and handsome (Mansfield Park), Charlotte who marries settled but ridiculous Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice), Mr. Bennet who married out of an attraction to youth and beauty and found himself saddled with a partner for life without manners, intelligence, or cheerfulness (Pride and Prejudice).

I don't agree about the repetitive theme of women selling themselves to the highest bidder, though. Austen is squarely on Elizabeth's side when she rejects Mr. Collins' proposal (at what could be a terrible cost to her whole family) because she dislikes him too much. When Elizabeth later rejects rich but haughty Mr. Darcy, she is not shown to have chosen wrong. Only when Darcy amends his character is he the right match. In Sense and Sensibility, Edward Ferrars is clearly the right match for Elinor, even though his rich mother has disowned him and named his brother her heir; they will be frugal and live modestly on his clergyman's living, but they will be happy. Emma tries to play matchmaker for Harriet and the socially superior Mr. Elton, but Harriet's true happiness in marriage is with the hard-working young farmer who has "good sense and good principles" as well as a loving heart and a well-kept homestead.
 

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ajaxlucy said:
When Elizabeth later rejects rich but haughty Mr. Darcy, she is not shown to have chosen wrong. Only when Darcy amends his character is he the right match.
I think if you recall, Darcy's character does not amend, but rather Elizabeth's understanding of it improves. And that improvement only begins when she visits his large and beautiful home, and sees how much land he controls. Only then did her view of him soften.

It's just all too grim. I love Austin's use of language. It's like music and never fails to transport me. But all these stories of women desperately trying to cope with being pawns in their own lives has killed the joy of it for me.
 

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Darcy's character does amend, and so does Elizabeth's. Both of them must change - that is Austen's whole point. Darcy is haughty and must learn humility ("I was spoilt by my parents who allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing, to care for none beyond my own family circle, to think meanly of all the rest of the world, to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own...You taught me a lesson...By you, I was properly humbled.").

Elizabeth, in turn, is guilty of leaping to conclusions about people. She is clever and witty and doesn't question the judgements she makes about people, even when she doesn't really know them. Because Darcy is cold and says something unkind about Lizzy at the assembly where they first meet, she is willing to believe terrible things about him. Because Wyckham is charming and flatters Elizabeth with his attention, she is willing to believe his story of ill-usage. During the course of the story, Elizabeth must learn how greatly she has erred. That, of course, happens after she reads Darcy's letter. At first "she wished to discredit it entirely" "she flattered herself that her wishes did not err. But when she read, and re-read...She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wyckham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd." Elizabeth's improved understanding of Darcy's character and, more importantly, of her own character, begins right there, not later when she sees his estate. "How despicably have I acted!...I who have prided myself on my discernment! - I, who have valued myself on my abilities!...Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our accquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself."

Darcy's character flaw is pride and Elizabeth's is prejudice (thus the name of the book); both people must change for them to find happiness.
 

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Eh. Maybe it's because I have daughters, but Austin's tales about young women hustling up the richest husband they can in their social strata---not because they want to, but because they have no other way to support themselves---really palls. Even when they are exquisitely written. :shrug:
 

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As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of Miss Austen. I believe you do her an injustice in saying that her tales are of young women hustling up the richest men they can find to marry, whether they like them or not. Her heroines are not women who try to marry the richest men they can find or women who successfully find financial security through marriage. Caroline Bingley, Maria Bertram, and Charlotte Lucas would be sympathetic characters if that were true. Nor does Miss Austen write admiringly about women who are swept off their feets by their feelings; beauty, love and passion are not enough to make a good marriage. I think her novels all say that to have a good marriage, one must be a good person, and find another good person who is willing to share one's life. Money is not the most important thing.

It's still very important, though, at least if one doesn't have enough of it. That is true for both men and women in these books. Financial constraints, societal restrictions, and family ties must be negotiated by both genders. It's not only the ladies who seek financial security through marriage. Wyckham needs money (Pride and Prejudice), Willoughby needs money ("Sense and Sensibility"), Frank Churchill needs money ("Emma"), and their need leads them to act less than honorably. Other male characters, major and minor, are kept - at least temporarily - from women they admire by lack of money.

Jane Austen is a critical observer of people's choices when faced with such pressures. How to behave, how to live, how to choose while keeping one's integrity and following one's heart is the problem for both her male and female characters.
 

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Julia said:
Eh. Maybe it's because I have daughters, but Austin's tales about young women hustling up the richest husband they can in their social strata---not because they want to, but because they have no other way to support themselves---really palls. Even when they are exquisitely written. :shrug:
You forget that these were written long ago when things were different. It's not like today where yur daughters have other choices than what was afforded back then.

During this time of history in England marriage for these women of this class was the only option. It's not like they could have gone to college and opened a business, it just wasn't done.

So what we have this is case is a choice to marry well, a member of one's same social standing, or to leave the family and be disowned and go work as a labourer for another wealthly family. What choice would you now rather push your daughter towards? A life of drugery, were one ages very fast and in most cases ar dead in their 40's or a life of relative luxury by marrying well? Not a tough choice for me to make.

However, the reoccuring theme in all of Jane's books is about how very important that choice of a marrage is. Jane's books at least do not focus on the upper titled sections of society where choice in marriage was often nonexistant. At least these women in her stories had a choice and it's a journey to make the correct choice. These women profiled in her stories are all strong women, who at least have more they are considering than just looks, the grand passion of a flirt or monetary considerations.

Yes, there are monetary considerations when marrying, more so back then than these days, but it was a different society back then. Had my family not immegrated here in the 1700's, my forfathers would have been the labours on these estates.

Now bearing all that in mind say your daughter is ready to marry and has several sutiors to choose from. Do you lead her towards the more stable person who is Mr Darcy? Who you have met before and have found a bit pround, or do you lead her to Wickham, the degreate lout that runs out on his bills and responsibilities?

If you remeber correctly when Lizzie is speaking with her father in the library, her father says to her that he has given his approval but more than anything he does not want to see her married to a mate to whom she does not respect. Sure he's rich,. but will he make her happy?

Lizzie's anaswer is yes. It's a choice. Had she just wanted to marry a stable man she could have accepted Mr Collins offer, but she knew that this marriage would not make her happy.
 

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Yes, I know Jane Austin wrote these books long ago. :) They still make me sad, as Uncle Tom's Cabin makes me sad, and especially since Jane Austin herself, with all her amazing genius, suffered horribly from this system and ended a not well liked spinster aunt in a married sibling's household until her early death---- simply because she lost out in the marriage sweepstakes.

It's *sad*.

And for the record, I advise my daughter not to marry. There's nothing it in for her, and a great deal to lose.
 

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Mr. Darcy does change his manners for the better in Pride and Prejudice. After Elizabeth Bennet turns down his marriage proposal, saying he was not very gentleman-like, he thinks it over and changes his behavior. When Elizabeth Bennet with her aunt and uncle bump into him at his Pemberley Estate, Mr. Darcy chats pleasantly with the aunt and uncle (even though the uncle is only a tradesman, not a gentleman). Mr. Darcy also invites the uncle to go fishing with him.

In England in those days, a gentleman did not work. Mr. Bennet is a gentleman and he doesn't work. As far as weighing how much money one suitor has against the amount of money another suitor has, I think that's pretty much what we do these days as far as jobs go. If your daughter has two young men who are interested in her, and one is a clerk in a grocery store, and the other one has a college degree and is a lawyer or CPA or some other profession, and otherwise both men are equal (both nice, both good men), you can see that your daughter would have more financial security with the professional man. He has better earning potential.

I think Jane Austen made clear in Pride and Prejudice that Elizabeth Bennet had resolved she would only marry for love. Elizabeth doesn't marry Mr. Darcy because he is rich, but since they have both fallen in love with each other, that's an added bonus.
 

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ELOCN said:
If your daughter has two young men who are interested in her, and one is a clerk in a grocery store, and the other one has a college degree and is a lawyer or CPA or some other profession, and otherwise both men are equal (both nice, both good men), you can see that your daughter would have more financial security with the professional man. He has better earning potential.
My daughter, if she is interested in living with a lawyer or CPA, should go to school and become a lawyer or CPA. That way *she'll* have that better earning power, no matter what he does or does not do.
 

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Julia said:
Yes, I know Jane Austin wrote these books long ago. :) They still make me sad, as Uncle Tom's Cabin makes me sad, and especially since Jane Austin herself, with all her amazing genius, suffered horribly from this system and ended a not well liked spinster aunt in a married sibling's household until her early death---- simply because she lost out in the marriage sweepstakes.

It's *sad*.

And for the record, I advise my daughter not to marry. There's nothing it in for her, and a great deal to lose.
Well, I agree with you that Austen's novels reveal that the world can be a place of suffering and degradation. That's one thing I like about the books. There are no heart-stopping adventures on wilderness mountaintops, but these characters still have to struggle: through the dangers, the obstacles, and the potentially harsh brutalities of their very civilized world. Drawing room converstions, bonnets and ribbons, and walks in the shrubbery may seem tame and trivial, but the formidable power of custom, culture and human nature can be revealed in the most ordinary settings, and it can be very damaging. To me, it seems more real that way than if the setting were very exotic and the action very dramatic or extreme.

I've heard people dismiss Austen's books as being little more than soap operas, but I think your finding her books hard to read is evidence of her skill as a writer. She has made the constraints of her world painful to you, centuries later, and I don't think she did it accidentally. I've no doubt that Jane Austen saw and felt all these societal pressures very keenly herself, and her books reflect her thoughts and observations on how people try to live under them. She gave her heroines happy endings, but I think she knew full well that reality (of which she was quite critical!) doesn't always work that way.
 

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Julia, that's an excellent point, for your hypothetical daughter to become educated and become a member of a profession herself. But then who would you have her marry? The grocery store clerk, or the lawyer? Remember, they are both equal otherwise. They are both good men and they both love your daughter. With whom do you think she will have the greater chance of happiness -- the grocery store clerk or the lawyer?
 

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Julia said:
Why, anyone she liked! They'd both have drawbacks, and it would be her choice who to deal with...
See, that's it. Your daughters will have education and choices. In Austen's day, a woman being a lawyer would have been unheard of. Not only because it was not socially acceptable, but because no one would have taught her. Women wouldn't have been allowed.

It's all very well to say it palls when presented with young woman after young woman trying to get a husband, but that was what society, male and female, expected of them. Be very glad your daughters live in today's world. :)

The world changes really fast sometimes, slowly others. I'm 50, and when I was a kid it was still rare to see women lawyers. When I was seven or eight, my mother's dreams for my sister and me were that one would become a hairdresser and the other a nurse. That was how she could see us being independent. I am happy to report that ten years after that, during the mid to late 70's, she was thinking instead that we could be a doctor and a lawyer, instead. :) That's how fast things changed.

Jennifer
 

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Another point to make about English society of this time: it wasn't only unmarried women and their parents who debated about how much money a suitor or potential suitor had, it was also unmarried men and their parents who debated about how much money a young woman had, or that her parents would settle on her when she married. And not only poor men: even in well-to-do families, the young men and their families tried to make sure a young woman would bring a sufficient sum to the marriage.
 
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