Virginia Wolf once said “The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste”. I could not but agree with her. While reading Austen, I’m constantly in awe with her writing, beautifully witty and fundamentally true. While, nowadays, I see so often reproached to Miss Austen the always happy ending of her books, I cannot but see our own lack of faith of human heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love bad book ending as much as I love happy ones as long as they remain true to the story. But when I seek to read Austen, I seek it for the ingenuity of her writing and the knowledge I will finish her story light-hearted and slightly amused. I love her books for they are realistic, exposing the very heart of human stupidity, vanity and hypocrisy but at the same time full of hope for human kind. The bitterness is somehow sweet and bearable and the despair of her heroines and heroes always temporary.
As to ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I write this review for my second re-read. One good thing about re-reads is that you already know the story and there’s no need to rush through the pages to know the end. I actually let myself to savor every word of the story while my morning train was quietly leading me to work. During the weeks I was reading it, there were sometimes beautiful spring mornings, full of green and while crossing countryside and small villages on my way to work, I would imagine myself in Longbourn observing the everyday life of the Bennets. On other days, the rain was pouring, the clouds gloomy, my umbrella weak and useless, and my only comfort were the very pages of that same book. In those I could hide myself and switch worlds. And finally, when I put it down today closing the last page, I once more thought art is the only true perfection of human soul for why I consider Jane Austen’s books a truly form of art. Her ability to seize human nature in all its variety and forms, creating astonishingly vivid and truthful characters exposing them to themselves, leaving them in their own limits of surpassing their faults and weaknesses is her greatest accomplishment.
There are many many portraits of English society of the late 18 and 19 centuries. We have Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy, the Bronte’s sisters, Gaskell, to mention but the most commonly known and there is Jane Austen. It is true, her novels lack of political background, of world changing events or the complete misery of human condition but I do not see the necessity of those ingredients in her books. It does not make them less valuable, well-written or accurate to certain time and habits. On the contrary, it makes them more precious and genius for the fact she managed to make out of the boring everyday life of English countryside society real page-turners.
I would recommend to everyone to read Jane Austen in English for I think one could fully appreciate her style and technique in her own language. As to myself, I know, I’ll sometimes soon be reading ‘Emma’.