Jane Austen, 'Persuasion': Irony and the Mysterious Vagaries of Narrative CC Gresham College
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Jane Austen, 'Persuasion': Irony and the Mysterious Vagaries of Narrative CC Gresham College

To celebrate the birthday of one of the best-loved British novelists, we bring you five of her greatest works to enjoy.

Pride and Prejudice

Everybody knows those famous opening lines: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice examines a society obsessed by class and marriage with a skewering wit. Furthermore, the chemistry between our protagonist, Lizzie Bennet and the sultry Mr Darcy has rarely been matched in fiction since.

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Persuasion

A shining example of the brilliant subtlety of Austen’s characterisation, Persuasion gives a thoughtful insight into the human condition and all the follies that come with it. The story delves into the world of Anne Elliot who, at 27, worries she has missed her chance at love and marriage with Commander Frederick Wentworth. With Austen’s trademark humour, Persuasion was her last fully completed novel.

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Listen to the audiobook

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is often underrated by critics and readers, but is a fantastic parody of the Gothic genre which was so popular in Austen’s time. The book is known for being Austin’s most comic work as well as making a strong case for the importance novels, which at the time were not seen as important as nonfiction. Northanger Abbey follows heroine, Catherine Morland, who has a love of Gothic novels and an overactive imagination.

Listen to the audiobook

Sense and Sensibility

Telling the story of the Dashwood sisters, Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s first published novel. While the book lacks some of the craft of Austen’s later work, the sisters, Elinor and Marianne make for compelling, complex leads. The novel follows their journey to a new home and their experiences of love and heartbreak there.

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Listen to the audiobook

Emma

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich," is quite the introduction for the eponymous heroine of Austen’s novel. Indeed, Emma is a brilliant female lead: headstrong and unaware of the consequences of her wild imagination and tendency to meddle in the lives of others. Readers find themselves both loving and hating Emma, who is full of light and shade amid a novel which offers profound insight into themes such as family and social class.

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Listen to the audiobook

See also