You guys might recall Jenetta James from last years "On Austen...In August" post, as well as my review of her book, Suddenly Mrs Darcy. She's rejoined us this year to talk about her history with Austen and how she became a Janeite — which might just be a bit of a theme this year... — in celebration of her latest, The Elizabeth Papers! Make sure to pop in tomorrow for a chance to win a copy!
Miss Jane Austen and me
So, this is the second year that I have taken part in this blog event and for the second time, have found myself writing the post whilst on holiday. I am blaming the holiday spirit for my slightly reflective mood on both occasions. This post is about how I “met” Miss Austen and why (I think) it has turned out to be such an enduring acquaintance.
When I was 11, an Aunt of mine gave me the complete Jane Austen. She suggested that I wait a few years before reading any of it and in any event, that I should read Persuasion last. The reason for this was her view that Persuasion is the best one and the most mature. Being a bit of a contrarian, I immediately got started on Anne Elliott’s tale of second chances. I was mostly lost. The romance was not quite the sort to touch an 11 year old girl (although I did like Captain Wentworth, even then), and the social satire left me completely baffled. Back on the shelf went my Jane Austen library, for the time being.
Fast forward 2 years and the BBC’s now famous mini series burst into living rooms around the country, including ours. The series was very well advertised before it was broadcast and my Jane Austen donating Aunt called to check that I’d read it, to which I had to say, no. So, a friend and I decided to try to “read along”. Trouble was, the BBC didn’t issue guidance on how many chapters to an episode, and the whole thing turned into a bit of a comedy of errors. We hadn’t read as far as the Hunsford proposal and so were as astounded as Elizabeth when it came on screen.
Still, I loved it and it gave me the confidence, slowly, to move onto Sense & Sensibility and then Emma and so on. I finally read and enjoyed Persuasion at 29. Over the years, there have been lots of re-readings, lots of dipping in and out. I took Pride & Prejudice into hospital with me when I was in labour with my first baby, although it is fair to say that this was another misjudgement on my part, as there wasn’t much reading of anything involved.
Miss Austen is an author who seems to ask the reader to link arms with her and go for a wander. She is companionable in a way unrivalled by other classic writers. For myself, I put her long standing place in my life down to the acutely observed characters, who we can all recognise and the blend of satire and romance that pervades her work. There is a humour and a hopefulness in it which comes back to me time and time again and is, I suppose, why I never tire of any of it.
I would love to read about when and how you “met Miss Austen”…
Leave a comment below telling us how you became a Janeite as an entry in tomorrow's giveaway of The Elizabeth Papers!
*To be officially entered, you will have to fill out the Rafflecopter on the giveaway page, in which one of the entries is leaving a comment. You will not have to leave a new comment to enter -- just click enter!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenetta James is the nom de plume of a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers are available now!
|Return to the Austen in August Main Page by clicking here for more Janeite goodies!|