Fiction

30 Days, 30 Books That Shaped My Life – Day 18 NaNoWriMo

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single author in possession of talent must be in want of a reader.

With apologies for the obvious, I today paraphrase the original matron of “chick lit,” Jane Austen. Although she only completed six novels in her all-too-short lifetime, her growth as a writer was as dramatic as the colorful characters she created. While I have read all of Ms. Austen’s completed novels along with her letters and lesser writings, my all time favorite is Pride and Prejudice, which tells the story of a woman of intelligence but not fortune. However, Elizabeth Bennet is more than a woman down on her luck; she is also a woman of high morals and ideals (the Prejudice of the title). Eventually she comes to see her folly, but she is not a foolish heroine. If anything, her prejudice saves her from emotional ruin when she refuses to marry for money. In the end, she grows as a person to realize that not marrying for money on principle should not preclude her from marrying for love.

I think that Jane Austen is one of those historical figures that would be wonderful to meet in person. Many writers and filmmakers have done reimaginings of Jane, ranging from Jane as a detective to an “Alice through the looking glass” figure who would rather stay in late-20th Century London than be transported back to early-19th Century British countryside. Her female characters are modern and cool, even when trapped by the world around them. In that regard, every modern chick-lit author from Candace Bushnell and Lauren Weisberger on this side of the pond to Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding on Jane’s side of the ocean owe Ms. Austen a debt of gratitude.

Without Jane Austen, chick lit might never have been born. And readers would be all the poorer for it.

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