Let’s take a fresh look at Jane Austen, one of England’s best-loved writers. Although she published her novels anonymously (to help them get published, during a time when women were not usually writers), she used her income to finance her family (including a disabled brother). She never married, though she had romances (apparently she rejected one proposal as he would lose his inheritance and the other man suddenly died before he could marry her). She died just 41, just a year after getting ill from a mysterious disorder (now believed to be Addison’s disease).
This series of books all have different editors, but all are huge Jane Austen fans. The books retain authenticity, but have a fresh re-telling to appeal to younger readers (or people who don’t think they are interested in literature, save watching Mr Darcy on TV). And they also have lovely black-and-white illustrations by Eglantine Ceulemans.
- Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who loves nothing more than reading a romantic novel, but as one of 10 children she doesn’t have much time for reading or romance. When she is 17, her wealthy neighbours invite her to spend the winter season with them in Bath – to experience balls, the theatre and other social delights. She makes friends with the passionate Isabella, and dances with a handsome man called Henry. It seems all her dreams are coming true. But real life doesn’t always play out like a novel. And Catherine will have to overcome many hurdles, to find her happy ending.
- ‘Emma‘ is the story of Emma Woodhouse, who is pretty, clever and rich. And sees no reason why she would ever need to get married. But she loves matchmaking for her neighbours, despite the advice of her friend Mr Knightley, who warns her against meddling. Her latest success (the wedding of her governess) makes her certain that she can find the right match for anyone. Can her success continue? Or will best laid plans unravel – as they always seem to do?
- Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, who age 19, follows the wishes of her father, and turned down the proposal of the man she loved – a naval officer called Frederick Wentworth. Years later, he returns from his time at sea – and Anne dares to hope that their paths might cross once more. But of course true love is bumpy at best – will Anne and Frederick ever be reunited?
- Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price, one of nine children from a very poor family. So when a distant relative offers to take her in (giving her the opportunity to grow up wealthy and comfortable), her parents jump at the chance. But money does not always bring happiness. Fanny struggles to settle into her new home, where the family are very cold to her. Her only friend among them is Edmund, who tries his best to help her be happy. But as she grows up, Fanny realises that Edmund is the most important person in her life. But will he ever see her more than the timid little girl, from many years before?
- Sense and Sensibility is the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. When their father dies, they are forced to leave their home behind, and move far away to a tiny cottage. Their lives look set to change forever, in ways neither had expected. Elinor must leave behind the man she loves, whereas Marianne falls for their charming (but entirely unsuitable) new neighbour. The sisters will need each other’s support, to find happiness. But will they ever find the right balance of sense and sensibility?
- Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennett, the second eldest in a family of five daughters. Although their mother is keen to seem them all married to wealthy man, Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. At a ball, she meets Mr Darcy (who she believes to be proud and haughty). But perhaps there is more that first meets the eye..