Usually I can’t read a whole series in a row. I find that after book three, I get bored with the author’s style, or the characters, or the repetition of plot as generally happens with a series, no matter how much I may love the books in general. Jane Austen is, apparently, my exception. I’ve read 5/6 books in a row over my holiday and it seems I’m suffering a bit of an Austen overdose.
Symptoms include: an overdeveloped fondness for tea, a dislike of contractions, and the temporary ability to notice the foibles in everyone.
Austen has a knack for extreme characters. I’d offer a few examples, but the more I think about it, the more I realise nearly all of them fall into this category. For some characters it’s a short term issue (Mr Darcy’s aloofness), for others it’s a terminal quality (Miss Bates’s inability to stop talking). Most of these exaggerated traits are used to evoke humour, but the more I read, and then the more I look around me, the more I appreciate how brilliant her characters are. In every book, there’s at least one person you want to lock in a room so you never need to hear them again, one person who seems cruel but turns out all right and one person who seems lovely who turns out to be a rake.
Style-wise, no one will ever get rich writing like Austen anymore, but there’s a lot to be learned by her character development, the use of appearance over truth, and how inconsistency in character in not necessarily a stylistic flaw, but can be used to show the character’s hypocrisy, absurdities, or hint at an underlying personality.
The other thing that really strikes me this time through, is how little anything has changed since the early 1800s. Teenage girls are still teenage girls, silly people still abound, and there is still the hope that love will find us when and where we least expect it.