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Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until in May 1817 she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on 18 July 1817.
As a girl Jane Austen wrote stories, including burlesques of popular romances. Her works were only published after much revision, four novels being published in her lifetime. These are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously in 1818 with a biographical notice by her brother, Henry Austen, the first formal announcement of her authorship. Persuasion was written in a race against failing health in 1815-16. She also left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives.
Fellow novelist Katharine McMahon on Jane Austen...
I can't not choose her. And whichever I've read last is always my favourite. The nuance of emotion, the understanding of human nature revealed by Austen constantly delights me. When I reread Sense and Sensibility recently, for the first time Elinor came across as quite prissy and destined to marry a rather spineless husband. I wonder if that was intended?
While Pride and Prejudice may sit at the top of many people’s favourite Jane Austen books, Emma has to be a contender for the title too. For me Emma has a little more bite, it isn’t quite as comfortable a read as Pride and Prejudice, and that makes it more interesting. In terms of lead characters Emma is right up there, she may be headstrong, snobbish, convinced she knows best, yet because of those characteristics, because she isn't perfect, she also feels so very real. Emma is a bright, beautifully written novel with real heart and I love it.
Full to the brim with ready wit and arch social commentary, this amusing and intelligent book is as relevant today as it was when published nearly 200 years ago. If you haven't previously read any of Austen’s works, this is the perfect place to start, it’s one of her lesser known but more stimulating and provocative novels. Quite literally a book of two halves, we have a story of a young woman learning the difference between reality and fantasy and then a consummate commentary from the author on the literary world at the time. Austen introduces an almost anti-heroine, a kind, caring but not particularly captivating Catherine, then surrounds her with four fascinatingly different characters who range from compassionate, intelligent and gracious to self obsessed, mercenary and petulant. As well as the engaging story, you also discover an author who appears to be somewhat on the warpath. She actually talks to you from the page, her views are so clear, you could be having a face-to-face discussion with her. If you already know Northanger Abbey, reacquaint yourself with this fascinating novel. This actual edition is charming, a perfect size for the hand bag and one to treasure. It also has an interesting Introduction by Val McDermid who has just recently, with approval from the Austen Society, published a terrifically good reimagining in a contemporary setting of Northanger Abbey.
'No sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes...' The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on Persuasion... I love Jane Austen with a deep and enduring passion, and I think the story of Anne Elliott’s second chance is possibly my favourite. The way that she revives as a character like a flower soaking up water is quite miraculous. It is also has a plot of clockwork perfection. I read this book at least once a year and I always find something new to marvel at. The Lovereading view... Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities. In her introduction, Gillian Beer discusses Austen's portrayal of the double-edged nature of persuasion and the clash between old and new worlds. This edition also includes a new chronology and full textual notes.
One of Rebecca Front's favourite books. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen's first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.
Even if you have seen the numerous films and TV adaptations there is nothing quite as good as reading the original book about the Dashwood sisters and the complications and misunderstandings that take place in their love lives. A true classic, a clever, wonderful, romantic read. This edition is published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of its first publication. April 2010 Guest Editor Katharine McMahon on Jane Austen... I can't not choose her. And whichever I've read last is always my favourite. The nuance of emotion, the understanding of human nature revealed by Austen constantly delights me. When I reread Sense and Sensibility recently, for the first time Elinor came across as quite prissy and destined to marry a rather spineless husband. I wonder if that was intended?
One of P. D. James' favourite books. When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.
The classic Austen tale brought to life by one of Britain’s best loved actresses, Juliet Stevenson. Charming. Abridged audiobook edition. 3 CDsRunning Time: 3h 45m
September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith... This wasn’t a set text for us at school, but I read it anyway and it got me into the classics big time. I had such vivid pictures of all the characters and places. Sadly, every adaptation, including the fantastic one with Colin Firth, was never a patch on my image of what they all looked like and were like. Plus I just love a love story… GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial.