Thursday, April 11, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Jane Austen

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Jane Austen

Dear Ms. Austen,

Like so many of your fans, I started with Pride and Prejudice, and it's definitely a classic. Lizzie is so sharp and witty and self-assured, and I loved the kind of comeuppance you gave her. I've been that girl, who was overconfident in her information and had to eat crow later.

But my favorite of your novels is Sense and Sensibility. That sibling dynamic really spoke to me. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are such opposites and yet are so much alike, both running with such deep passions, but in complete disagreement about how that ought to be expressed. Much like me and my own sister have been at different points in our lives.

Readers who don't understand your work talk about it being too polished, and dismiss it was drawing-room-drama. But what has always pulled me in is the universality of the experience of the women in your books. Even though they are set in a year and a place distant from my own, I feel I know these women, recognize myself and other women I know in the pages of your books. Smart women constrained by circumstance, trying to balance responsibility and love.

As someone who spent childhood in the contemporary equivalent of the genteel poverty many of your characters face, I appreciate the recognition of the stress that comes from knowing you and your family are one financial disaster away from ruin. Money is such a factor in all their lives, and that is part of why your books still speak to us here in the 21st century.

When I visited Bath during  graduate school, I didn't get to do the full "Jane Austen tour" (I know you'd be amused that you are a cottage industry of that town now), but I still loved walking around and picturing all the characters from your novels in the various settings. The place hasn't changed much since your day--you'd probably still recognize the place. I felt out of my place in my very American sneakers and shorts.

I just read Northanger Abbey earlier this year. I had put off reading it for a while because it was the last of your books I hadn't yet read. Your acerbic wit and affectionate satire of young heroines in gothic novels were a delight, and it fun to see your work at an earlier stage of development.

I like to think that if we were to meet for tea at the Pump Room that we'd be great friends.We could sit together and laugh at the pomp and circumstance of it all.

Thanks for all the literary friends,
Another strong-willed woman,


  1. What brilliance! I love your AtoZ Challenge theme. Thank you for your helpful advice over at my blog! :)

  2. Fun theme and I enjoy how you're handling it.
    But Jane HAD to be the one I commented on because, you know..., Jane.
    My favorite of her works is Persuasion. Any thoughts on that one?

    Enjoy the challenge!

    1. I also loved Persuasion, though I've only read that one once. I'll have to add to my re-TBR :-)