Fiction Book Reviews

Writing What She Knew – Jane Austen

I’m a big fan of classic literature, though I’ve not read as much as I’d like. There are a wealth of novels spanning centuries and centuries with the purposes of entertaining, teaching, and inviting readers to explore new places. Some of my favorite books, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and any of Austen’s works, guide me into a very different time and place…but interestingly not so different.

The similarity between all these authors is their inspiration: they wrote what they knew. From out of their own experiences, they created extraordinary stories out of the ordinary days. What did they do? How did they maneuver these details to invent masterpieces? Description, dialogue, plot, and (most importantly) memorable characters.

Jane Austen could have written about many more ‘exciting’ things besides the clashing of the classes and the seemily hopeless pursuit of unmarried country girls. She lived through The French Revolution (with two of her brothers in the navy), witnessed a nation develop its’ independence, and realized the dawning of the Industrial Revolution – but there is very little about those remarkable events in her novels.

Besides her marvelous wit and clever plotting, Jane Austen’s novels give the feel that This could happen to me. Regular people who experience one of the lovliest treasures in life: true love. Instead of bringing the reader to the battlefields of the Napoleonic wars, she exposes the battlefields of the heart. Instead of crashing swords, there is clashing wit. Instead of the rumble of cannons, there is an explosion of cultures and classes. The reverberation of her writing has been felt throughout two hundred years of literary enthusiasts and avid ‘adventure’ seekers…and she wrote about ordinary people in rural England.

For me, Austen wrote about the most important things in life…the things that do withstand wars, battles, guiotines, and nation-building. She wrote about relationships.

Nations rise and fall. Cities grow and decline. Leaders come and go, but at the heart of all of this are the relationships of life. Relationships – in all their joys, ridiculousness, grandeur, and pettiness – build the people. Jane observed this world, found the humor in the middle of it, and sought to create out of it.

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