Jane Austen: super-excellent

Yes, Jane Austen is quite obviously super-excellent, which most book bloggers already know, but you might not have known that she actually uses that phrase in Pride and Prejudice…? I quote:

They shook hands with great cordiality; and then till her sister came down, she had to listen to all he had to say, of his own happiness, and of Jane’s perfections; and in spite of his being a lover, Elizabeth really believed all his expectations of felicity, to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself.

Who knew?

I am slacking on the blogging front lately, perhaps it was telling myself I needed to write a very detailed review of Marie Therese: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel that I’ve been talking about so much lately. Yes, I finished it and I have to say, it was the first biography I think I’ve ever read. Usually I find them boring with all the slow childhood details I don’t really care about but Marie Therese’s life was fascinating from the start, it gave a nice taste of life at the grand end of Versailles without overdoing it the way Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser did. And once the French Revolution started, I was glued to the edge of my seat. It trailed off a little towards the end, but Marie Therese in general had a fascinating life and lived it boldly, despite probably having post-traumatic stress disorder from her experiences living in prison and seeing death all around her during the French Revolution. It reminded me that as wonderful as fictional make-believe is, sometimes what really happened makes an even better story and I think this will inspire me to try more history books in the future as more than just handy references but actually entertaining and inspiring stories that go further than fiction. (In my university history classes, I always just used the index to find the parts of the books that were most useful for my essays and left the rest alone!) I’ve since bought both A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel which is set in the French Revolution, to take a ride around the block on her bandwagon and see if it’s to my taste (so far yes, but I’ve since gotten distracted) and Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose. I am becoming more interested in biography, but I also like that it’s not the massive attack that most books about the Victorians are.

And as far as Pride and Prejudice goes, I may sometimes think I’m bored of it and couldn’t possibly be bothered with it again (this is probably my seventh time reading it) but I still love the elegance and humour in Jane Austen’s writing that provides such clear insight into a wide variety of relationships, I know I’ll continue to reread it every few years. Now I’m debating rereading Jane Eyre, which I haven’t touched in years, or starting Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve begun tipping towards the Victorians again…

10 thoughts on “Jane Austen: super-excellent

    • Carolyn says:

      Exactly. Sometimes I look at what I read in previous years and wonder why Jane Austen turns up so often when there’s still so many other classics I haven’t read yet. But she’s important to my mental health!

  1. Joan Hunter Dunn says:

    I forayed into biography in the spring and enjoyed it more than I thought.

    ‘It reminded me that as wonderful as fictional make-believe is, sometimes what really happened makes an even better story’

    Oh so true.

    • Carolyn says:

      What biography did you read? I think it might be fun reading biographies of Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly someday, since they are two of my favourite classic actresses.

  2. Claire (The Captive Reader) says:

    Wow, I’d missed that phrase during my many rereadings of P&P. I had to dig out my own copy to see it with my own eyes. Though, really, it does seem an excellent (indeed, a super-excellent) way to describe perfect Jane.

    As for Jane Eyre versus Wives & Daughters, after our discussion on Saturday I think you know where my vote lies!

    • Carolyn says:

      Ha, yes! I did go with Wives & Daughters actually, since I haven’t read it yet and have been meaning to for some time. I’m sure your enthusiasm for it helped. I always dislike how fussily condescending ‘Clare’ is towards Molly in the first few chapters, but then thought, wait that is how some people treat children. At least now I’m past that part, although there is plenty more of Hyacinth Fitzpatrick in the story! (I’ve seen the miniseries already)

  3. Karenlibrarian says:

    I missed that phrase also, very amusing. Hmmm . . .why is the most perfect character in the book named Jane?

    I love both Jane Eyre and Wives & Daughters, but they’re totally different. W&D is closer to Jane Austen. It’s long but I found it a fast read. The BBC series is excellent if you haven’t seen it.

    • Carolyn says:

      Jane Fairfax also, very accomplished young woman! 😉

      I’m giving Wives & Daughters a try this time and it’s nice to hear it’s closer to Jane Austen, I can always do with more of that! I have seen the miniseries years ago and every now and then think of buying it, but haven’t yet.

  4. Nymeth says:

    You’ve made me really want to read that Marie Therese biography. I’ve been getting more interested in biographies lately as well. Currently reading and really enjoying one of Rosalind Franklyn. They’re a nice way of getting up close and personal with history.

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