Reading Jane Austen

All Jane Austen Novels Ranked

Jane Austen is one of my all-time favourite authors. Her writing is beautiful and funny, her novels intelligent and observant, and many of her topics are still relevant today. In her works, she somehow managed to wonderfully mix love and devotion with feminism and courage, while describing the manners and customs of the society of that time.

It’s interesting that someone who had never had children, been married or (as far as we know today) had a romantic relationship could write about all these topics so well. According to biographical sources, Jane Austen had been in love with a man once and had been proposed to by a different man at another time, but had refused him. Just like her heroines, she wouldn’t marry for any other reason than true affection.

I enjoyed reading every single one of her novels, but some will forever be my favourites. I ranked them from my favourite to my least favourite. This blog post contains some spoilers.

1. Pride and Prejudice

A classic novel of manners. Honestly, I think I love P&P and Sense&Sensibility equally. Elizabeth and Darcy are such classic, eternal characters that they just deserve the first spot, though. Everything from standing for yourself and refusing to marry for anything but love (even though the marriage might be greatly encouraged by your mother and would benefit your sisters immensely), having the wrong first impression of someone and dislike turning into love is still relevant today.

Elizabeth is faithful to herself, her feelings and her principles from the beginning till the end, while Darcy is the one who truly experiences growth and is improved by his love for Elizabeth. Other than a great love story and a representation of a strong female character who defies the expectations of others, this novel is full of wholesome characters, such as gentle Jane, feisty Mrs Bennet, rebellious Lydia and annoying Mr Collins. The last three help create a good deal of humour in a story that manages to observe the manners, rules and expectations of British society in the 19th century.

If you want to read a review of the TV and film adaptation, click here.


2. Sense and Sensibility

This story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, has a lot in common with P&P. Just like Elizabeth and Jane, Elinor and Marianne are very different from one another, but they feel unconditional love and support for each other anyway. Again, Austen brings forward the topic of the inability of women to inherit property and how dependent their life is on who they marry and how much money he has.

What I loved about the novel the most was the contrast between the calm, reasonable and kind Elinor and the passionate hopeless romantic Marianne. They both experience a great disappointment in love at about the same time but deal with it in completely different ways. I cannot imagine anyone portraying Marianne and Colonel better than Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. Sense and Sensibility (1995) is (so far) my favourite TV adaptation of any of Austen’s novels.

3. Persuasion

Another strong female character, another marriage for love, even though it’s a bit more complicated this time. A proposal is accepted because of love, then broken off because of the persuasion of others. In this book, I found Anne’s nervousness and fear before every meeting with Wentworth the most interesting aspect and also somewhat relatable. His fake indifference and the fact that they actually loved each other quietly for those eight years also make this novel very special.

4. Mansfield Park

Fanny Price might not have the fire of most other Austen heroines, but she does have courage, and she’s been through a lot. She was taken away from her family as a child and forced to grow up with relatives who didn’t love her as their own. Still, she managed to be kind to everybody, including her unkind (to say the least) aunt Norris. I know that many readers think this makes her weak, but I think it actually makes her strong. Fanny’s high moral values might seem ridiculous today, but then so does her name and the fact that she’s in love with her cousin. She just «lived» in a different era.

5. Emma

It took some time for Emma to grow on me, as a novel and as a character. In contrast to all the heroines I’ve mentioned so far (including Fanny Price), she’s unlikeable. Emma is intelligent, but she’s also foolish (what else could she be with that father of hers – he makes for a funny character, though). Her matchmaking causes a lot of distress to her friend Harriet, and she almost doesn’t deserve all the love that she receives. The plot is interesting and funny, though, and I enjoyed reading it.

6. Northanger Abbey

This isn’t a bad book (obviously, it’s Jane Austen), but I honestly didn’t enjoy it as much as the others. I found it rather boring and the main heroine Catherine unlikeable and childish (she’s only seventeen, to be fair). I just couldn’t feel or understand the romance between her and Henry. It’s explained that he fell in love with her because he knew she was in love with him, but it still left me unconvinced.

7. Lady Susan

Lady Susan is the shortest and most special of all Austen’s novels as it is an epistolary novel. L. Susan is the queen of unlikeable characters, and Emma and Catherine are nothing compared to her. Emma is just a bit conceited and foolish, while Catherine is a naïve teenager with a lively imagination. Lady Susan, however, is a flirtatious, deceiving widow, who hates her poor, confused daughter Frederica. Her sister-in-law, Catherine, is the total opposite and the one who makes sure Frederica is taken care of.

L. Susan is somewhat defeated in the end, but she definitely deserves worse, which is why the ending isn’t completely satisfactory. I’m placing this novel at the end because it didn’t feel like a typical Austen novel because of its length and main character. The rest of them seem to follow a pattern: a brave girl, a suitable boy, some trouble concerning families, social status and money, and marriage for love. I like this pattern, however predictable it might be.

I enjoyed reading all the works described above and will definitely be reading the first two again at some point. Now I want to know: what’s your favourite Austen novel?

4 comentarios en “All Jane Austen Novels Ranked

  1. This was a nice little pre-bedtime read. I might actually dust off my Jane Austen collection, it’s been a while. Nonetheless, I never understood how people could ever call her work dull. She was a sassy little lady 🙂

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