Saturday, March 29, 2008

About the Jane Austin Books

I was thinking I'd post up a short summary of each of the Jane Austin books we are considering as a possible choice for reading.

Mansfield Park:

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. When the Crawfords arrive in the neighbourhood, they bring the glamour of London life with them.

Mansfield Park encompasses not only Jane Austen’s great comedic gifts and her genius as a historian of the human animal, but her personal credo as well—her faith in a social order that combats chaos through civil grace, decency, and wit.

At the novel’s center is Fanny Price, the classic “poor cousin,” brought as a child to Mansfield Park by the rich Sir Thomas Bertram and his wife as an act of charity. Over time, Fanny comes to demonstrate forcibly those virtues Austen most admired: modesty, firm principles, and a loving heart. As Fanny watches her cousins Maria and Julia cast aside their scruples in dangerous flirtations (and worse), and as she herself resolutely resists the advantages of marriage to the fascinating but morally unsteady Henry Crawford, her seeming austerity grows in appeal and makes clear to us why she was Austen’s own favorite among her heroines.

The book is 241 pages.

Northanger Abbey:

During her first season at Bath, a young girl experiences the joys of fashionable society. When her sophisticated new aquaintances invite her to their father's mysterious house, she fabricates her own Gothic romance, imagining the crimes that have been committed there.

Northanger Abbey is both a perfectly aimed literary parody and a withering satire of the commercial aspects of marriage among the English gentry at the turn of the nineteenth century. But most of all, it is the story of the initiation into life of its naïve but sweetly appealing heroine, Catherine Morland, a willing victim of the contemporary craze for Gothic literature who is determined to see herself as the heroine of a dark and thrilling romance.

When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor—and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status—puts all to right. Written in 1798 but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong, and infinitely subtle in its comedy.

The book is 488 pages.


Anne falls in love with Wentworth, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining influence, so persuaded by friends and family she breaks off the match and sends him away. Years later, he returns, is it too late?

Of all Jane Austen’s great and delightful novels, Persuasion is widely regarded as the most moving. It is the story of a second chance.

Anne Elliot, daughter of the snobbish Sir Walter Elliot, is woman of quiet charm and deep feelings. When she was nineteen she fell in love with—and was engaged to—a naval officer, the fearless and headstrong Captain Wentworth. But the young man had no fortune, and Anne allowed herself to be persuaded to give him up. Now, eight years later, Wentworth has returned to the neighborhood, a rich man and still unwed. Anne’s never-diminished love is muffled by her pride, and he seems cold and unforgiving. What happens as the two are thrown together in the social world of Bath—and as an eager new suitor appears for Anne—is touchingly and wittily told in a masterpiece that is also one of the most entrancing novels in the English language.

The book is 206 pages.


Shirley said...

Thanks for the summaries! I had looked each up and think I would like to read one of the Jane Austen books (I haven't read any of her books so thought this would be a good time to do so), but my concern was that if others are also of the same "Persuasion" we might wind up with the actual Jane Austen votes split when the main intention was to read one of them without great concern over which one.

Shirley said...

I now see that there is a vote section that would allow us to narrow the Jane Austen books, but once again the system will not allow me to vote. My vote is to read Persuasion, but one of the other two would be all right, too.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, I don't understand why it won't let you vote. On the other hand, it does strange things to me, too, like not letting me post the schedule recently ... and not letting me post this vote to reduce the number of Austen books down to one. I want to do this before we start choosing our next books for exactly the reason you mentioned ... not splitting the vote ... when the voters all wanted to read anything by Austen.

We still have a few more days, so keep trying to vote. However, I'll keep in mind what you want, even if you can't actually vote.

Shirley said...

Thanks, Bonnie! I'll keep trying and will let you know if it does allow me to vote.