Next up in my series of interviews is Jennifer. Jennifer who I have never yet had the pleasure of meeting but who I’ve come into contact with and gotten to know through the very same blog that you are visiting right now.
Personally I am loving these interviews, and I hope that they are enjoyed by all my readers too. Can I just say again how much I appreciate how you’ve all taken time and done this with me! You’re fantastic, thank you!
1. What was your first encounter with Jane Austen? What made you decide to read her work?
I started reading Jane Austen in college, as part of a personal goal to read classics for fun and self-improvement. I read Pride and Prejudice first and loved it. It wasn’t too long before I had read all her finished novels and found myself wishing there were more.
2. Do you have a favorite of her novels? And if so why that one?
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, because it is light, funny, sparkling. I have read it many times now over the years, often as a sort of antidote after reading a modern, much less well written novel. Ahhh, just what the doctor called for, the English language, effervescent, witty, proper, and tightly woven into a sensible and delicious love story.
3. Out of her characters, is there a particular one/ones that you like more than the rest? And which character would you say you resemble most yourself?
I think Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse are charming, vivacious characters. Jane Bennet is a favorite, too, and a good person to emulate in real life.
I am probably more like Anne Elliot than the others. I was raised with two sisters and married later in life than most of my peers. I aspire to be sensible and caring and to value others for who they are, rather than for what they have. And like Anne, I married a very fine man eventually.
4. Do you ever watch any of the screen adaptations? Do you have a favorite of them?
I do watch the screen adaptations when they come out and often buy them on DVD to enjoy again and again. Emma Thompson’s version of Sense and Sensibility is beautiful, I think, and the more I see of the latest Emma from the BBC, the more I like it. So much of the story is told and the parts are so nicely cast. I have always liked the Miramax version of Emma, too, but I find myself turning to the new one more and more and look forward to owning a copy of it.
5. What do you think it is about Jane Austen’s books that makes them so immortal? Why have they stood the test of time so well and are now more popular than ever?
There are many reasons for her popularity, I think. Her use of the English language is so beautiful, her observation of human foibles and cares and desires are so true, her sense of humor so sharp… Another element, I personally find important in her work is the value of her characters as moral influences. Reading Austen as a young woman, I was moved by her characters to consider the depth of my own thinking and feeling, the degree to which I judged others based upon appearances, etc. I think she gives many good and bad examples to learn from if we are willing.
Also, I think it may be that many people in our day appreciate the more refined, more reserved atmosphere Jane Austen’s novels depict over much of what can be found in modern literature.
6. Has “discovering” Jane Austen lead to anything else in your life?
In recent years, I have read many of Jane Austen’s letters, some unfinished works, and quite a few biographies. I’ve also read some of the many sequels modern writers have written, a few of which I have enjoyed, including Letters from Pemberley by Jane Dawkins and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James.
Reading Jane Austen has sparked an interest in learning about the Regency Period and even enjoying some of the delightful experiences she describes in her books, like learning English Country Dancing through the parks program in Champaign, IL and having a costume made for a Christmas Ball held at the Illini Student Union on the campus of the University of Illinois. The dancing was every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be and I am looking forward to doing it again and again.
Researching the appropriate dress for the occasion was fascinating. I found the Secret Dreamworld of a Jane Austen Fan as part of that search. I found many other resources on the internet and even a seamstress to make my ball gown. Now as then, Regency attire has to be custom made and takes a bit more work than finding something ready-made at the mall, but the experience is worth the effort. I even made a chemise and reticule myself, which was quite an at-home adventure for me, since I do not sew very much. Now I know how it feels to wear Regency clothing from the skin out, including short stays, chemise, gown, and flat-soled dancing slippers.
English Country Dance has so much to offer: gentle and innocent social contact, vigorous exercise, beautiful live music, variety (as dancers change partners often), and the occasional opportunity to step out of my everyday attire and into something more formal and historical. I love having a practical reason to curtsey, too.
And now, thanks to Aurora, I am having this lovely opportunity to reminisce and to think through and share some of the reasons I am so drawn to Jane Austen’s works.
7. If you had the chance to meet with Jane Austen and talk to her, what would you discuss or ask about?
If I met Jane Austen, I would probably be struck dumb for fear of slaughtering the language she used so well. But if she really encouraged me to ask her anything, I guess I’d like to know if there really was a seaside romance in her life? Girls will be girls, I suppose. I wish I could think of something more profound, but there it is. I saw a video recently which surmised John Wordsworth, the brother of the famed poet, might have been the man, and I find this intriguing. But now I am gossiping, forgive me.
8. Do you have a favorite Jane Austen quote? Or just one that you really like?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that…” the very funny, probably forever true first lines of Pride and Prejudice, which were my personal slide into the world of Jane Austen.
9. And lastly, what other authors and books do you like?
The Bible is at the top my favorite bestsellers list. Other favorite books include Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. When I was a little girl, I happily devoured The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have enjoyed some modern romances by LaVyrle Spencer like The Gamble and Liliane by Annabel Erwin, and books by Debbie Macomber. I also enjoy reading non-fiction books about faith, personal finance, decorating, housekeeping, drawing, art, history, biography, or whatever seems interesting at the moment.