I have really, really enjoyed revisiting Austen, it’s been a few years since the last time I read one of them, and Mansfield Park, which I didn’t get on well with. Pride and Prejudice was the first Austen I read – a school text – and it became my favourite simply because of the BBC miniseries. I read it again a few years ago and decided I actually didn’t like it that much anymore, I found Elizabeth to be a bit of a bitch and the antagonist in her conversations with Darcy, constantly pushing his buttons and enjoying it. Pride and Prejudice, for me, suffers from being her most well known, and most told, story too because I was often comparing the narration to the miniseries and saying ‘but Darcy didn’t say it like THAT!’ or ‘Lizzie put a very different emphasis on that sentence’.
Emma quickly became my new favourite to replace Pride and Prejudice. I found her very likeable and I love her interactions with Mr Knightley, they get on so well and I liked watching their relationship change Emma, while we miss the “I love you”, we do get quite a glimpse of how their life will be because we do get to see so much conversation between them throughout the novel. I also love that listening to Emma gives me the perfect excuse to watch the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Emma and Clueless which was one of my favourite movies when I was younger.
from the brother/sister/friend relationship. Austen novels usually focus on the build up to the declarations of love, but gloss over the declaration itself. I’m usually more interested in reading novels that go into the details of the relationship rather than getting there, and I loved that with
While I found reading Mansfield Park a complete nightmare (it took me six months to finally get through it) I
found it did improve slightly as an audiobook – though I must admit part of that was the abridgment making it delightfully shorter. Part of the problem I found was that there were a lot more characters than usual and I found it hard to keep track of who was who. While I don’t really find Fanny to be a very likeable heroine, I did also feel very sad for her that it wasn’t until the very, very end of the novel that Edmund even begins to notice Fanny, and even then only as a second choice. It’s very difficult to feel happy for the main character that has spent many years of her life, and most of the novel, pining over a man that only notices her when his first choice rejects him for being a clergyman and the crazy cat lady concept hadn’t been invented yet.
Northanger Abbey is the only novel of these that I hadn’t read before and I am so glad it wasn’t abridged. Catherine Moorland has become my new favourite Austen heroine – she’s just so refreshingly open and has such a genuine excitement for everything she experiences. I think because she’s several years younger than the standard Austen heroine, Catherine is so much less guarded and more genuinely guileless than the other characters. While Lizzie, Emma and Fanny are so much more aware of social protocols and what is the expected manner of behaviour, they are less open their feelings and reactions and I found Catherine so endearing for having such an abundance of both. She dreams up such fanciful scenarios that are as hilarious as they are ridiculous and I look forward to visiting her world again in the future.
Juliet Stevenson herself is a fantastic narrator. Her voice dances out of the speakers and contains all the humour and delicately cloaked insults in an accent perfect for that time period. She speaks with all the feeling and enthusiasm each character requires and has found the perfect pacing for the story too. While it’s a shame that most of them were abridged because I would have liked to hear the story in its entirety, the story lacks none of the principal plot that would leave holes in the story.