This month, I finished reading the last of Jane Austen’s six main novels (Sense & Sensibility). While I still have her minor works to read, I feel really great to have finished Austen’s primary works. A few of you requested that I review all of her books together once I was done, so here we are!
I don’t think there are any surprises here, because I’ve talked about most of these books before. I enjoyed almost all of them – with one exception – and I will definitely be revisiting several of these books.
Without further ado, here is my list of Jane Austen’s novels, in order from least to most favorite:
I don’t care for Emma. I didn’t hate this book, but it took me several attempts to get through it over the years, and it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. I really dislike Emma as a character, and while I get the point Austen was trying to make, I couldn’t get past my annoyance with her. Compared to the rest of Austen’s novels, this one feels very immature, and I just wasn’t into it. I kind of wish I’d read this at sixteen, because I might have liked it a bit more. But you can’t love everything, right?
Sense & Sensibility
This one was slightly disappointing, but only because I was expecting it to be equal to Pride & Prejudice (these two always seem to be lumped together), and it just wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book – it got a four-star rating from me – but it wasn’t quite top-of-the-list worthy. I think my main issue was Edward. I felt like I was supposed to like him, and I didn’t. Not even in the end. I didn’t feel invested in his romance with Elinor (except to feel slightly annoyed). It was also really long (a problem I had with Emma as well), and I think if this had been Persuasion-length, I might have enjoyed it just a little bit more.
I know everyone hates on this book, but I actually liked it quite a bit. Maybe because it felt a bit more grown up. This book dips a toe into politics and society in a way the other Austen novels don’t, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. This ended up being one of my favorite assigned readings from grad school, which is saying a lot. (Also, do not watch the movie before seeing the book. There is a weird scene in the movie that isn’t in the book, and it could easily ruin the book for you. Trust me.)
This was the second Austen novel I read, and for a long time, it was right up at the top of my list. I was surprised by how much I liked this one, because the main character is one of Austen’s most immature. I think I just read this at the right time, to be honest. And I loved the gothic influences in this novel – it’s almost reminiscent of Jane Eyre. I think of all the books on this list, Northanger is the most fun. It’s gossipy and dark and just a great read.
I love this book because it is actually a grown-up love story. Anne Elliot is twenty-seven and much more sensible than Emma or Catherine Morland (which means she annoyed me less). It felt a lot more mature than all of Austen’s other novels, and, at this point in my life, that is exactly what I was looking for. I also loved that this is semi-autobiographical (Austen basically gave herself the happy ending she never got in real life). Definitely a book I will revisit.
Pride and Prejudice
It’s official: nothing beats Liz and Darcy. Persuasion came very close, but I have a soft spot for P&P because I love Elizabeth’s independent streak. Plus the banter between her and Mr. Darcy is A+. This is probably my favorite classic, and one that I will continue to return to again and again. It just makes me happy.
How many of Austen’s novels have you read? What is your favorite? And I’d love to hear from any of you who have read her shorter works. What’s the best place to start? (I’m thinking Lady Susan or The Beautiful Cassandra).
Note: I revisited this post three or so years after it was originally published and realized my opinions on a few of these had changed. So I edited my list to reflect that (I swapped Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility).