Purists who want to read every single versions of each Jane Austen’s novel might be disappointed with this book. It includes eight of her most popular novels, but there is no explanatory notes that indicates which variants you are actually reading. I don’t mind at all. I just need the essential condensed in a book that does not take too much space in my library.
Eight satires of the British gentry of early 19th-century, handled with a blending of classicism and romanticism tinted with humour, often using the"free indirect style", in which characters' subjective opinions are presented as if they were universal truth.
Sense and Sensibility is a satire of her contemporaries’ behaviour, through the experience of love of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor is ruled by "sense", her sister Marianne, by "sensibility". The usual dichotomy between duty and passion. How are these feelings blending in a society ruled by status and money, and how are they responding to external pressures, whether those pressures are sexual, social or economic? Elinor is always sensitive to social convention, concealing her feelings, while impassionate Marianne easily falls in love, ignoring that her impulsive behaviour leaves her vulnerable. They finally find out that they can't live with logic or passion alone, and learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find happiness. Fair enough. But how could passion be reconciled with sense? Is tamed passion still passion? At best could sense and passion be redirected and channelled in aesthetic creativity. That’s what writers do when they write. Art requires cold rigor and the fire of passion altogether.
Northhanger Abbey is a parody of those Gothic novels very popular at that time among the gentry’s housewives who read it to evade their marital entrapment.
Love and Freindship, written in epistolary form, like her later novel, Lady Susan, is a another parody of romantic novels Austen read as a child. Although written at the age of 14, she already shows that particular disdain for romantic sensibility, characteristic of her later novels
Lady Susan, a widow, is an intelligent woman, but completely immoral and perverted. She is pretty, seductive and manipulative. As she claims herself, she “enjoy the pleasure of triumphing over a mind prepared to dislike me, and prejudiced against all my past actions”
The main character in Mansfield Park, is Fanny Price, a shy, forlorn girl, who nevertheless fanatically sticks to what she thinks is right. Her own impoverished family, unable to raise her, has sent her, when she was a child, to live with her wealthy but unkind relatives. No, it’s not a remake of Cinderella. It’s Austen’s most controversial novel. While Sense and Sensibility is about balanced emotions, Pride and Prejudice, about precipitancy, Emma , about the journey from juvenile missteps to maturity, and Persuasion, about those whose superiority over others is for them a source of loneliness, it’s not easy to guess what the main theme of Mansfield Park is. Many years have passed; Fanny and her cousins are now young adults and are now “marriageable” material. Business forces Fanny's uncle and tutor, Sir Thomas Bertram, to travel overseas, leaving the youngsters on their own, free to party in their parent's house while parent was away. Meanwhile, a wealthy brother and sister, Henry and Mary Crawford, move in the neighbourhood, and love triangles and quadrangles start shaking up Mansfield Park. Boys chasing after girls and vice versa, and it requires a lot of attention to keep tracks of who’s in love with whom. The main point is that the object of both Fanny's and Mary's affections is Fanny's cousin Edmund. Though he loves Mary, it was with Fanny that he finally gets engaged. Is the marriage that ends the story between the right two people? Is Fanny rewarded because she is a good girl and not her rival, because Mary is a bad girl? Things are not actually as it seems. On one hand, critics have pointed out that several of Mary Crawford's lines of dialogue are astonishingly similar to lines from Jane Austen’s personal letters. On the other hand, though apparently a model of integrity, Fanny, who is dealing with self-esteem issues, is not free from negative feelings. Are Fanny and Mary the two sides of the same coin, the “doppelgangers” that haunt Jane Austen’s subconscious?