The Romance Genre – A Look at the Novels of Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.
Her first novel was originally entitled 'Susan' was written in 1798-99 when Jane was in her early twenties. The novel is about 17 year old Catherine Morland who leaves her home to go and stay with The Allens in Bath who are a well off childless couple. She then befriends a couple of other families and ends up falling for Henry Tilney who she goes on to marry. It was her brother Henry Austen who published the novel as 'Northanger Abbey' after her death in 1817.
Sense and Sensibility is one of the more well known novels written by Jane Austen. It was the first of her novels to be published in 1811. She did put her name to it as the title page said the book was written 'By a Lady'. The story starts when Mr Dashwood dies and leaves his estate to his son by his first marriage. This leaves his second wife and children in tough circumstances. They have to take a step down in society and are taken in by a kind cousin. Impetuous Marianne Dashwood tumbles into a fairytale romance which eventually goes sour, her more practical older sister Elinor copes with the family's financial problems while hiding her own frustrated romantic hopes. The novel ends happily ever after and became a success which even made a profit for Jane.
Pride and Prejudice is arguably one of the most read of Jane's novels and is still popular today. It was originally called 'First Impressions' and published early in 1813. To summarise the novel it deals with the misjudgements that often occur at the beginning of an acquaintance and how those misjudgements can change as individuals learn more about each other. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of upbringing, education, manners and manners and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England. The novel has and still continues to receive positive attention from literary scholars. The novel because so popular it has sold more than 20 million copies around the world and there have been many television and film adaptations.
Jane's third novel 'Mansfield Park' was written between 1811 and 1813 and published in 1814. This was Jane Austen's most complex novel and follows the heroine Fanny Price who is a poverty-stricken cousin brought up by her rich Bertram relations. The story deals with many different themes, from the education of children, to the differences between appearances and reality. After a number of tragedies and scandals there is a happy outcome for Fanny as she eventually marries her cousin Edmund.
'Emma' was written by Jane when she was thirty nine years old. It was written in 1814-15 and published anonymously in 1815. The novel is about the perils of misconstrued romance. Sadly Jane died just 18 months after this novel was published and it earned her a lot more after her death. This novel was another that went on to become film, television and stage adaptations.
'Persuasion' was written during her last months before she died in 1817. It was published by her brother after her death. Like her other novels the stories and characters are focused on middle-class provincial life with humor and understanding.
Her final book 'Sanditon' was left unfinished as she died aged two two on July 18 in 1817 in Winchester. Today her body lies buried in Winchester Cathedral which according to her sister was a building she admired very much.