I’m kind of persnickety when it comes to reading. There are certain genres that I will never touch if I can help it, and the most untouchable for me personally is romance. If someone were to hand me a romance novel, I think I’d drop it as if my hands were on fire and then I’d have to run to the bathroom and scrub them furiously until they were raw and bleeding.
There are exceptions, of course. I was forced to read Wuthering Heights in high school, and I liked it just fine, probably because Cathy died. I was really into the futility of life at the time, and the tragic denouement appealed to me. The Laurence Olivier/Merle Oberon film is terrific as well, and I try to watch it whenever it’s on TCM.
Thus, it is with deepest regret that I must admit that I can’t stand reading Jane Austen, and I really don’t understand her appeal. The film versions are much more enjoyable to me than the novels. Austen seems to translate well into film, but she doesn’t translate well from the page to my brain. I’ve tried reading Pride & Prejudice several times, and a couple of others (Sense & Sensibility, Emma) at least once. They seem trite and insipid to me. I could care less about the whole courtship and marriage formula that is so prevalent in these novels, and it really is a formula. Austen novels are gothic novels without the supernatural elements. The female protagonist needs to marry as soon as possible so that she won’t become a (gasp) spinster and will have enough money to enable her to live comfortably for the rest of her life. She meets a guy with all the requisite qualities and falls in love. Soon after this, something comes between her and her true love to jeopardize her future with this “man of her dreams,” but it all turns out well in the end. Yuck!
I understand that middle-class women during the Regency Period needed to marry well so they wouldn’t end up destitute and shunned by society. They weren’t allowed to go to college, get divorced or own property. Jane Austen wrote timely fantasies about women’s lives back then, but not about women’s lives now. So why do modern women love these, or any romance novels? For me, there is no possible way I can suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the genre. I’m more likely to be kidnapped by Orcs than to meet and be swept away by someone like Mr. Darcy!
So, this finally brings me to the subject of this post: what’s with the recent humongous Jane Austen sequel fad? My local Barnes & Noble carries a whole slew of these. I tend to shy away from sequels of any kind because they’re usually so much worse than the original. These books have to be total trash, and I wonder why anybody buys them. Well, at least the women reading these are reading something, which is more than can be said for most of the country. I will continue to ponder this, but I doubt that I will ever understand our current attraction to derivative Jane Austen novels.
If you’re one of the aforementioned Jane Austen fans, please don’t hold this against me.