WHY WE LOVE JANE AUSTEN
By Syrie James

Four years ago, PEOPLE magazine declared us to be living in "a Jane Austen moment." The moment hasn't stopped...it hasn't even slowed down!

Jane Austen is adored today with rare intensity. Long credited as the mother of romance literature, she is now considered by many as the great-great-grandmother of "chick lit." There's the “Jane Austen Book Club" and novels that continue the stories of Austen's characters; there are Jane Austen mugs, calendars, and paper dolls, and you can buy "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the board game".

Jane Austen plays and musicals have been springing up around the globe and, in January, for the first time in television history, Masterpiece Theatre will begin broadcasting (mostly new) adaptations of Austen's six novels as a complete collection, plus a drama based on her life.

Where did all this come from? Why has Jane Austen suddenly become so incredibly popular?

The truth is, it took centuries for Jane Austen's popularity to grow. She was first published in 1811, when she was nearly 35 years old. She was obliged to pay for the publication of her first book herself. Her name never appeared on any of her novels until after her death and two of them were published posthumously. Jane Austen was classified as a romantic and slowly rose in popularity and respectability.

I think the big turning point came just twelve years ago--the same year Jane Austen appeared full-force on my radar--with two films that brought her books vividly to life: Emma Thompson and Ang Lee's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (one of my favorite films) and the BBC version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

When you put Jane Austen on the screen, something magical happens. Even though I'd read and loved Austen in college, it wasn't until 1995 and those two movies that I became obsessed with All Things Austen. Women swooned over Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy! (I've seen that mini-series at least a dozen times!) Overnight, Austen's popularity exploded and it has continued ever since.

Why is Jane Austen still relevant? Why do her novels speak to us so strongly, after two hundred years? It's because Austen was a brilliant craftsman and because she wrote about real people in recognizable circumstances. Her characters all wrestle with familiar social and emotional problems that we still confront on a daily basis: family relationships, voyages of self-discovery, money (or the lack of it), and the struggle to live within society's rules. Most importantly, she wrote about what people risk when they fall in love and what it can cost--a topic anyone can relate to, at any time.

I love Jane Austen because she wrote with a wonderful sense of irony, humor, and realism and a great understanding of character. Her novels are beautifully structured gems. There is always an element of suspense. At times she makes me laugh out loud and her books always leave me satisfied: the good are rewarded, the bad punished, and the lovers united.

Adoring Jane Austen as I do, I found it impossible to believe that (as historians tell us) Jane Austen never had a love affair of her own. How could it be that this brilliant woman, who gave the world such delightful and romantic stories, never fell in love herself? Wasn't it possible that she had a romance the world never knew about? I decided to write the book that I wanted to read: to give Jane Austen a deep and loving connection with the man who was her soul mate, even if, in the end, they were unable to marry.

Researching and writing THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN was a true labor of love. It's a thrill to see the book at bookstores and online, and to read the reviews from critics and messages on my website, www.SyrieJames.com.

When did you first fall in love with Jane Austen? What is your favorite book or film, and why? Have you, like me, been dying to see Jane Austen have a romance of her own? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Syrie James

9 Comments:

Blogger evelgal said:

What is the thrill of romance ? I never understood it. Can someone help? If you're tired of romance and want to come back to reality, come say hi to me at

http://evelgal.blogspot.com

10:12 PM  

Blogger a said:

I fell in love with Austen over one summer when my parents were renovating the house and among all the rubbish dislodged from the attic, I found an almost pristine copy of Pride and Prejudice. I devoured it in one day much to my mother's horror when she found me with it, as I was only 9 at that time - too young to read romances, according to her. I've been an addict since then and still have that copy, although it's tattered from constant use :)

I love the thought of Austen having her own romance as in reality she didn't which was kind of disappointing to learn after having experienced her glorious novels.

Look forward to reading your book!

10:52 AM  

Blogger Mary Castillo said:

This book is one of the best I've read in a really long time! I hope it goes gangbusters, Syrie.

Best,
Mary C.

10:54 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Talk about not putting a book down, not going to sleep until you have finished it ... and then reading it a second time to be sure you recall all the details you might have missed???? Phenomenal story, phenomenal writer,... isn't love wonderful, exciting, and frightening? Syrie...hope you continue to write more wondrous books and the world will say YOU are another Jane Austen!
Awe Struck
Leila

10:38 PM  

Blogger Vicki said:

I'm picking up 4 copies this morning and what I've read from the comments of others, I know I'm not going to be reading about a "plain jane". Looking forward to reading your historical novel and to "gifting" 3 of them. Bestest,Jim Lewis

9:25 AM  

Blogger Kasey said:

Syrie, you wonderful woman! Can't wait to read this -- I've got my order in to Amazaon! Congratualtions many times over on getting this published.

I'm delighted that you pointed out how effective Austen is on film. I'm not one who fell in love with the novels -- though I'm willing to give them another shot -- but Austen's attention to the nuances of relationship makes for wonderful, subtle, layered cinematic moments. Just watched Mansfield Park last week, and enjoyed it immensely.

Oddly enough, until I read the title of this blog, I didn't actually think of Austen as a "romance" writer. Hmm.

Kasey

5:12 PM  

Blogger Dori said:

I was introduced to Austen years ago in my literature classes at university and have been hooked ever since! She is delightful in any form...monograph or film and you have captured the Janesque spirit which I savour one chapter per day! Good job! :-} Dori

6:51 PM  

Blogger grandma said:

If someone called out the name "Jane" on the street, I bet you would turn around. Was it Keats who created the term, "negative capability" when the author so immerses herself in her character, that she loses her own identity and assumes the character about whom she is writing? Seems an essential part of the process. Superb story, a real page turner. How soon is your book about Charlotte coming out. . . or have I missed something? Claire Vreeland

9:48 AM  

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