While discussing Austen’s novels, as we are wont to do on a daily basis at the Jane Austen Centre, two of our Centre staff, Jenni and Naomi, got into a discussion about whether Mary Crawford can really be painted as “a bad guy” as so many seem to think she is. “If she’d been in any other novel”, said Naomi, “she’d have been the heroine. She’s got a lot in common with Lizzy Bennet.” Then, as fate would have it, the very next day we at the Jane Austen News heard about the upcoming Fanny vs Mary debates…
The first day of the debate takes place on Claudine Pepe’s blog, Just Jane 1813, on Monday October 23rd. (We know at least two people who’ll be following the discussions with great interest!)
“We’re more than capable of enjoying classic literature” says Emily Handel, a Year 11 student at Tavistock College in Devon.
This week we came across a marvelous article on TES by Emily Handel, which argues that classic literature isn’t being presented as something which is suitable for teenagers. At least, it’s not something which they are recommended to read. Emily thinks this is something that needs to change. These are just a few of her reasons:
It is relevant to today’s teens. I picked up Anna Karenina, unsure of what to expect. Due to its classic status, I was worried I might find it obscure. In fact, I found the opposite was the case. I was incredibly moved by the story, finding myself completely swept up in the characters’ continually fluxing emotions.
Being 15, I can’t help but feel that it’s difficult to break away from reading young adult novels. Teenagers are marketed to as if these are the only books for us.
Don’t misunderstand me; there are some fantastic ones (I’ve read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses more times than I can count), but only picking titles from this category is hugely limiting for adolescents. Why do we need to label novels “young adult”? Good books can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. I still love to read Winnie the Pooh.
We need to tear down the prejudices surrounding writers from the past, and respect them for what they are: brilliant, insightful people who wrote, in the words of Jane Austen, “works in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature … the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language”.
Certainly we’ve found that the young people who have visited the Jane Austen Centre and who have read classic novels (some of them even before their teenage years) have made similar remarks to those of Emily. Emily’s full article can be read here.
If you are, then you might like to try this recording of Pride and Prejudice made by Essential Audiobooks.
This year two of the company’s narrators, Catherine O’Brien and Pearl Hewitt, have been are nominated for Best Voiceover in the Classic Audiobooks Narration category in the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Awards for their interpretations of the books. Catherine is nominated for her reading of Pride and Prejudice, and Pearl for her rendition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
“We’re breathing new life into these old classics. Our highly skilled storytellers put their own unique spin on the books, and that’s what makes them so special.” – Essential Audiobooks CEO and nominee, Catherine O’Brien.
(In the course of our reading about Catherine and Pearl’s nominations, the Jane Austen News also came across the surprising news that audiobook publishing is now the fastest growing sector in the publishing industry, with a global value of over 2.8 billion dollars. An interesting trend.)
While having a look for discussions on classic books (yes, at the Jane Austen News we really are such book fanatics that this is something we do in our spare time) we came across a post on BuzzFeed asking “what classic novel should everyone actually read?” An intriguing question, we thought…
As it turns out, it wasn’t an article so much as a request for comments from readers of the article. Scrolling down we were delighted to find that lots of the comments were recommending Jane’s Pride and Prejudice as a must-read novel for one and all.
This was our, and the BuzzFeed community’s, favourite comment:
If you’d like to see what other books were recommended, you can find the full list of comments here.
If you’ve been keeping up with the Jane Austen News newsletters over the past few weeks, then you probably already know that one of our Jane Austen Centre guides is currently in rehearsals for a stage production of Pride and Prejudice. Zoe will be playing her literary heroine Elizabeth Bennet, and she’s been keeping us up to date with all the latest from her rehearsals.
This week she had some snaps of the Bennet sisters in costume to share with us:
Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.
Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.