All About Austen

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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:

Emma. 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?

Mansfield Park. 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.)

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.

Northanger Abbey. 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.

Persuasion. 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).

31 thoughts on “All About Austen

  1. Great accomplishment!! So far, I’ve read Sense & Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. I think, like you, I expected a bit more from Sense & Sensibility. However, I l o v e d Northanger Abbey! I was completely blown away. Although Catherine is immature, I found her to be absolutely hilarious. Loved it!! Next up I plan to read P&P, but honestly I feel a bit nervous because it is SO popular.

    1. Same! Northanger Abbey is just really fun and ridiculous. I totally understand what you mean about P&P, but it lived up to the hype for me. Read it when you’re ready, and I think you’ll like it.

  2. I can’t say P+P is my favourite but I am all here for Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Northanger Abbey gets a bad rep sometimes, but I really don’t see why. It’s so much fun! And although it got published quite late, I think it was one of the first books she wrote, so it makes sense that she would develop her craft and write more mature characters afterwards.

  3. I must admit I’m a fan of Northanger Abbey, because it’s intelligent and mischievous: it reads like it was written by Lizzie Bennett after she’d had a couple of sherries 🙂

  4. I’ve read all the major novels. Here’s my ranking:

    Sense & Sensibility: THE VERY BEST. I love the sisters, the tone, the comedy, the house, and Edward is my favorite Austen hero. Which I realize is silly, but I love his shyness and awkwardness and attempt at honor and how torn he is. Marianne and Elinor are my literary cozy place. I would like to hang out with them both. I’m far more like Marianne, so I respect Elinor and would LOVE to spend days with them and their sister and mother. The story (losing the entail, being homeless) seems quite relevant to me, especially since Austen feared the same future for herself.

    Pride & Prejudice: MASTER-PIECE. It wins high marks for Mr. Collins.


    Mansfield Park: I did a paper on this one for an Austen class. I read the play the book references throughout, and argued that the novel is Austen’s literary response to the play, which was popular in her day. She is basically laughing at the play and saying, “Oh for goodness sake. What nonsense. Men aren’t the moral center, women are.”

    Northanger Abbey: FEMINIST. And funny. I read The Mysteries of Udolpho because of this book and laughed throughout.

    Emma: Well the girl is ridiculous, but I think that’s the point. This girl is rich and bored and female: ergo, she is intended to be a silent ornament. Meanwhile, she has a brain. So she becomes A MONSTER because she must do or die. Like Lady Catherine De Bourgh. I feel that Emma is Lady Catherine before she became a rich bossy so and so with money and power, and the point? Give women something to do, please, or we will turn into match-making power-mongers and no one wants that. I actually like it a lot, but not as well as my two faves. 🙂

    Persuasion: I think this is a beautiful novel. It’s just not as high as my other favorites by Austen. It’s quite low-key and I prefer the passion, laughter and rowdiness and mischief. However, it’s lovely. 🙂

    1. I definitely need to read Lady Susan next! Great to hear your take on them! I always love hearing what other people think! And I totally agree that Northanger Abbey is feminist. I think that’s why I loved it so much.

  5. Sense and Sensibility is probably my least favorite Austen novel, but I’m tied for favorite between Emman and Pride and Prejudice. I think it depends on the way you look at Emma whether you like it or not.
    I see Emma as this beautiful picture of the ordinary and how to appreciate the ordinary, lovely people around you. I’m a mix of Emma and Lizzy when it comes to personality, and I love how both of them have such zest for life.

    I read this book in 2016, A Jane Austen Education. It’s so rich & I highly recommend it if you get a chance!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Maybe that’s the key to Emma: you need to be able to relate to her. I have no Emma in me (I’m more a mix of Lizzy and Anne Elliot, maybe with a bit of Catherine Morland or Marianne Dashwood).

  6. My favorites are P&P and S&S…. but Liz and Darcy are definitely my favorite couple…

    Love your reviews…!!! It’s been so long I’ve read the others, so I don’t even remember if I enjoyed them a lot. Probably time to revisit them..

    1. Thank you!!! They are decidedly the best Austen couple! I just love their banter.

      It’s only been a couple of years since I’ve read some of these, but I already feel the need to reread them.

  7. Oh my gosh, reading your review made me nostalgic and I’d like to reread the Austen books once more. My favorite is of course P&P (Darcy is unlike any other literary love interest I’ve read so far) and I wanted to read them in the order that the movie “Jane Austen Book Club” sus but I’m always stumped at Emma. Fantastic points I loved your post!

    1. Thanks! I love the Jane Austen Book Club. I probably won’t reread Emma ever (it took me three or four tries to get through it the first time), but I definitely want to revisit the others at some point.

  8. I have read all 6 of the main novels as well! Pride and Prejudice is my all time favorite novel (so by default it is also my favorite Austen novel). It has been so long since I read the rest of them that they all kind of bur together so I can’t give them an order, but now I want to re-read them so that I can! Reading through the comments it seems a lot of people got stuck on Emma. I had to listen to that one on Audiobook because I kept failing to finish the physical book. It made it a lot easier to stick with it because I listened to it on my way to and from work.

    1. Pride & Prejudice does seem to be the universal favorite. I really need to reread it soon. It always gets me in the mood for more classics.

      And I did the same thing with Emma (and I could still barely get through my 30-minute commute).

  9. Great mini-reviews compilation! My favourite is also Pride and Prejudice, but Sense and Sensibility comes close in second. I liked Emma, it was fun and the romance was sweet, but I’m not in love with it as well.

    1. Thanks! I think I’ll have to reread Sense & Sensibility at some point. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but I was expecting to like it more than I did.

  10. Persuasion is my favourite, I adore Anne Elliot, and find it the funniest and best paced of them all. I really struggled with Sense and Sensibility, but I’m not sure if I perhaps read it a bit young – I think I was about 15, and although I understood a lot of it, I think a lot of perhaps the satire/humour/sharpness probably went over my head.

    I never made it past the few few chapters of Mansfield Park to be honest – couldn’t stand the main character!

    1. Honestly, I think part of the reason I pushed through the first few chapters of Mansfield is that I had to read it for school. I ended up really liking it, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

      1. I have heard really mixed reviews, I think I will try it again at some point though – 17 year old me didn’t have a lot of patience with female characters who didn’t instantly resonate/seem badass haha.

  11. I’m not sure if I have read Northanger Abbey yet, but I love Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion! Sometimes I’m not sure which one is my true favorite. Although the first time I read Persuasion the opening pages bored me so I shelved it but when I went back to it and got past those first pages, I totally fell in love with it.

    1. I think reading Jane Austen has a lot to do with timing. P&P will always be my favorite just because it was one of the first classics I ever read, and I’ve read it several times over the years.

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