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Jul 30, 2006, 12:26pm

What, in your opinion, is the best of Jane Austen's novels?

My impression is that the two most commonly chosen for this title are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, but the novels and their heroines are all so different that it seems to me that choosing a favorite says a great deal about what you look for in a novel. Did you choose your favorite because you identify with the heroine? Was your choice a reaction to or against conventional favorites?

Jul 30, 2006, 1:22pm

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Jul 30, 2006, 7:15pm

I'll have to say Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, and I did rather enjoy Emma. I think Sense and Sensibility is my second favorite.

Jul 30, 2006, 7:19pm

I didn't really say why I like Pride and Prejudice ! :) I think it's a combination of Elizabeth just being a wonderful character and also the interesting look at how things can be so misunderstood, just by not talking to the person directly and also, by assuming something about someone. It makes you think about being honest and open and never assuming anything. :)

Jul 30, 2006, 9:37pm

I have all of JA's books including her lesser known writings and juvenilia. I don't know which would be my favorite. Mansfield Park is still my least fave though. Northanger Abbey was a youthful flavor.

6bandini First Message
Jul 31, 2006, 12:30am

Blasphemy! Emma is hands-down the best. Really I'm surprised at the responses. It is the most complex, textured and is just plain old funny.

Jul 31, 2006, 5:24am

It has varied over time, I think. When I first started reading Jane Austen in my teens it was Northanger Abbey, and then for a while it was Sense and Sensibility, but now it's Emma. As I've grown older I've come to appreciate Mansfield Park more. I used to find it very heavy going.

Jul 31, 2006, 8:06am

Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, in that order, I think. Least favourite: Persuasion. I disliked Mansfield Park when studying it (my lecturer and I were the only two who admitted to detesting Fanny Price; everyone else adored her), but can just about stand it now.

Scandalously (or not, depending on your POV), I only saw the BBC Ehle/Firth Pride and Prejudice this year, and I've never seen any of the other adaptations they did over the years, nor the recent P&P film, or most other Austen adaptations. I have seen Emma Thompson's S&S several hundred times though!

Jul 31, 2006, 8:29am

Ah yes, that is another good question: which is the best Jane Austen screen adaptation (incl. film and TV)?

Also: why is Austen so particularly well suited to adaptation to media she could not possibly have conceived of while writing?

Is it the sharp quality of her dialogue (much of which is lifted directed out of the novels by screen adaptors)? Plotlines which are subtle but easily contained in 2-6 hour adaptations (vs. Dickens, for instance)? Story arcs which are perfectly suited to Hollywood's demands of complication and (happy) resolution?

Is Austen's popularity today in part due to some sort of "cinematic" quality to her prose which we are drawn to? To the fact that her prose and plots have proved so fertile for these new media?

Jul 31, 2006, 9:12am

I think Jane Austen's best work is Persuasion. I think the humor she has down in that novel, along with the romance, are the most mature of all her novels. Though I have a complete soft spot for Pride and Prejudice as well. It's been a long time since I've read any of her books, though I love them all! Well, all but Mansfield Park.

11topologyrob First Message
Jul 31, 2006, 9:34am

They're all so wonderful.

My favourite intellectually is (gulp) Mansfield Park! I think Mansfield Park is her most sophisticated and profound work - the symbolism is amazingly well-crafted and subtle, and she says a great deal here. The Hollywood version utterly missed the point of this book - almost as if the director read it with eyes half shut.

Pride and Prejudice is my favourite for its Mozartean structure (particulary the deft, ever-so-gradual, mirrored expansion of geography and social circle) and sheer joy of characterisation (is Elizabeth the most gorgeous character in all literature? Quite possibly. I wish I could like Emma as much - she is rather annoying in many ways).

Northanger Abbey has a lot of wonderful 18th century wickedness, such as she displays in Jack and Alice and other juvenalia - the naughtiness I could wish for in some of her other work.

I do wish she'd had time to finish Sanditon.

Least favourite (because of structural and dramatic weaknesses) is Sense and Sensibility, though it has enormous charm (my least favourite of Jane Austen, though still very much loved). Willoughby is not persuasively handled at the end.

Jul 31, 2006, 9:40am

Easily the best adaptation for me is the '95 Pride and Prejudice, mostly because of the screenwriter Andrew Davies and his devotion to Jane Austen, also great casting. I did like the dirt and farmhouse feeling of the more recent film, but it was poorly cast (unfortunately) and was rather more Bronte sisters than Austen somehow. I think it's a bit tough to do an Austen novel in less than several hours.

Hands down worst is the 90s Mansfield Park.

Maybe second-best is Clueless. Am I just nostalgic for 10 years ago?

Jul 31, 2006, 1:44pm

I find it really hard to say which is my favourite book. I like them all, and all for different reasons, I suppose.
And all the heroines have common qualities but, at the same time, are so different.
I think the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, is probaly the best, mainly because it is the most complete. I must agree with topologyrob on the fact that it is not easy to do one of Austen's works in less that several hours. I did enjoy the latest movie version, though...great photography!

Jul 31, 2006, 5:50pm

I'll agree, I avoided the newer film of Pride and Prejudice, because I loved the BBC version so much...but then my friend saw it and whe watched it over and over and just raved...she even asked me to get her the book from the library. (Her first British novel) so I checked it out, and you know what? It was really good! I liked the cinematography and I thought they did a good job with the casting. The only actor I didn't like was the girl who played "Lydia"...Jena Malone. She was awful.

Aug 1, 2006, 4:56pm

Of Austen's novels, I'd have to rank Pride and Prejudice and Emma as the top two. I've probably a little more love for Pride and Prejudice, but that's largely on account of having seen & loved the BBC version so many times.

In the second tier I'd place Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. I think her weakest novels are Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Though still brilliant, Mansfield Park doesn't quite have the lightness of touch that I love of Austen, and the satirical aspect of Northanger Abbey both lessens it dramatically and amounts to a barrier to the modern reader.

On the new production of P&P, I'd have to proclaim myself a fan- a superior cinematography and look to the film. In terms of the actors, I'd say that Keira Knightley actually does a better job than Jennifer Ehle, while Colin Firth is not equalled by MacFadyen. Among the other characters, the only ones I'd argue are better in the BBC production are Lydia, Kitty and Wickham.

Aug 1, 2006, 10:37pm

Has anyone seen Bride & Prejudice? What did you think?

Aug 2, 2006, 12:18am

1. Pride and Prejudice
2. Sense and Sensibility Tied Emma
P & P characters because of tension, as to class, society rules. S & S the same but slightly less so, and stands apart nicely from Emma which was equally strong

A&E's P&P was probably the best it could get.

Bride & Prejudice was really great! I even tivo'd it. Nice twist!

Aug 2, 2006, 8:35am

I've seen Bride & Prejudice, but I didn't much care for it. Personally, I think Aishwarya Rai is beautiful, but that she kind of hogs the screen with that beauty and usually doesn't have much of a "spark" with other cast members (in Hindi films, too). I don't think she had much chemistry with the male lead at all. But the colorfulness of the movie was fun, and it's so interesting to see how many different ways people rework Austen's work. Especially Pride & Prejudice.

Has anyone seen the books Dating Mr. Darcy and Dear Jane Austen? Those sound like such fun.

19creyola First Message
Aug 6, 2006, 10:22am

I know it goes against the majority, but Mansfield Park has always been my favourite. I think there's such a richness to Fanny Price in that she's painted as weak and yet ends up showing a strength of character unmatched by everyone else in the novel. I like that Austen gave her a moments weakness in her acceptance of Henry Crawford. The only disappointment I have with Mansfield Park is the bland ending where Edmund seems to choose Fanny from lack of options. Second favourite is Pride & Prejudice.

I love the BBC version of P&P, but I have to admit that I adore the lastest Knightley/MacFayden version. I think the cinematography was stunning and I enjoyed the artistic licence used towards the end, it fed the desire for a passionate Austen ending that I've always hoped for.

Edited: Aug 10, 2006, 12:34am

dear creyola, I love all the books, but Mansfield Park least of all. Is it just prejudice against a heroine called 'Fanny'? She seems such a charmless lead, to me. Especially compared to the flawed but fiesty Elizabeth Bennett and Emma. I must go and have a re-read, see if I can appreciate her more.

Loved BBC version of P & P, thought the movie version with Knightley and McFadyen completely missed the mark. Did the director even like the book? Did they ever read it? Though, visually it was lovely. Liked McFadyen as Darcy, too.

Gee, I sound like such a curmudgeon! I loved the movie Clueless and also enjoyed the version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow.

I was given a book recently called what would Jane Austen do? - a guide to dating (?!!?) and it was quite fun. I also have one called What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew which is really interesting - gives contemporary information about things like marriage laws, currency, food, servants etc that sometimes are a little obscure.

21LadySadie First Message
Aug 10, 2006, 5:35am

Persuasion is my favorite Austen book. Partly because I identify with not only the lead character, but also the storyline. I'm kind of surprised to see all the dislike for Mansfield Park, which is my second favorite. I absolutely love Fanny, and the book in my opinion is the best written out of all of them.

Emma is my least favorite. I cannot stand her character, which is rather ironic because Mr. Knightly is one of my favorite guy characters from any of the books. Not too fond of S&S either.

As for the movies, BBC version of P&P is the best of any. Period. Don't even bring up the new version around me. From the casting to the acting to the screenplay to the costumes to the forced timeline, it was a complete tragedy. And I agree with akenned5, I came out of that movie wondering if the director or screenwriter had even read the book, or just seen other versions of the movie. And yes, the only good thing about the movie was Darcy. Bride and Prejudice was fun to watch though because it wasn't a straight retelling.

Aug 10, 2006, 10:57am

akenned5, I've heard about Dear Jane Austen, which is a book that is similar to a Dear Abby column. And I've heard of Dating Mr. Darcy, which sounds like great fun, too!

Aug 25, 2006, 7:03am

Pride and prejudice is my favourite Jane Austen.
I had really mixed feelings about the new movie. I enjoyed it but at the same time I found myself thinking (like others) "Has the director even read the book?". I really didn't like how he portrayed the Bennets as a close-knit, loving family. That said I thought Matthew Macfayden was brilliant.The best Mr Darcy I've seen.

Aug 25, 2006, 7:09am

I just bought the BBC version to compare with the film (which I picked up cheaply about three weeks ago). How many versions of Mr Darcy does a girl need? (Answer: At least three. I re-watched Bridget Jones's Diary just to be on the safe side.) I have to say I think there's merit to both. Firth is more my idea of Darcy, and obviously the tv adaptation has more time to explore the minor characters and finer points of the plot. But I wouldn't dismiss Knightley/Macfadyean at all, I think it does the job pretty well in the time available. And if it makes even a handful of people say "ooh!" and go and read the book, job done IMO.

And the scenery is splendid. Only one set was built for the film, did you know? (The common hall.) All the rest is real.

Aug 25, 2006, 8:14am

Emma is Austen's most mature and sophisticated novel, but Pride and Prejudice is probably the best read. Where Emma frustrates, Elizabeth charms.

Mansfield Park is interesting because Austen wrote it in response to criticism that she could only do engaging intelligent main characters, hence the blandness of Fanny Price. Unfortunately some of this blandness infects the novel, dragging the story slightly.

Persuasion, which I have a soft spot for, is probably her most personal work. Her death meant that she was unable to revise it properly, meaning it doesn't have the same authorial distance of the other works. Anne's emotions seem stronger, more open than in the earlier works.

Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable novel in the same way as P&P although probably not quite as good. Northanger Abbey is a beginner's work, not really up to the later standards, but diverting nevertheless.

Best adaptation - between the 1995 BBC P&P, and the much lower profile Persuasion, also made by the BBC in the same year.

26cordelliablythe First Message
Jan 4, 2007, 5:39pm

My favorite of her books would be Pride and Prejudice followed by Emma and Northanger Abbey.
I found a book at the library the other day called Flirting With Pride and Prejudice. Has anyone else read it?

27metzimm First Message
Jan 5, 2007, 12:51pm

Maybe I am biased b/c the first J.A. novel I read was Pride & Prejudice, but that is my favorite. It is timeless in its development, and has been interpreted in many ways! I must admit Mansfield was my least favorite...Emma and Sense & Sensibility are fun, but not as well done as P&P.
Nevertheless, all are a good read and well worth the time.

Jan 5, 2007, 12:54pm

#26 and 27, I agree with you in Pride and Prejudice being my favourite, followed by Sense and Sensibility. After these two, I really could not say which one I prefer....

Jan 20, 2007, 1:08am

Well, we can't say much more about what our favorite Austen book is, can we? What do people think of her contemporaries? Or of other female authors who wrote of similar themes? (Should I start a new thread for this?) It's interesting to me that Jane Austen inspires such a devoted following in us, but why not ... Edith Wharton? Or the Bronte sisters? Or Fanny Burney?

Feb 27, 2007, 4:34pm

I think that all of her novels do something different and have different effects. Pride and Prejudice is certainly the most effervescent, and likely to be the most beloved. Mansfield Park is capable of having civilized people go to war!

I don't think that Jane Austen had any really wonderful contemporaries. Fanny Burney does little for me. Sir Walter Scott believed that Austen was far superior to him. It takes a few decades to get to the fine Victorian female novelists. After Austen I am quite fond of George Eliot and Edith Wharton and moving into the 20th century, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Pym.

Feb 22, 2008, 6:27am

Re message 18-
I loved Bride and Prejudice, I thought the story adapted well to Indian culture. I loved the cheesy songs and thought the acting was great. The equivalent Mr Collins was brilliant