Jane Austen: A Writer for the Ages
By Karen Wojcik Berner
By Karen Wojcik Berner
It was Mrs. Berkeley’s English class, sophomore year in high school. Our first full-scale research paper lay ahead. We were to pick an author, read three of his or her books, and write a term paper on recurrent themes in the work.
The list was filled with the Classics, ninety percent of whom were men. I glanced further down the page and came upon a name I had never seen before —Jane Austen. One novel’s synopsis started out something like, “Elizabeth Bennet meets Fitzwilliam Darcy at a dance. Neither is too pleased with the other.” I was hooked. I quickly ran up to our teacher, securing this Jane Austen before anyone else, for fear of being stuck analyzing Homer.
Pride and Prejudice changed my life. Elizabeth Bennet was witty and sassy, and her cat-and-mouse game with Mr. Darcy captivated my teenage heart. This felt real, whether it took place in the eighteenth or twentieth century.
Jane sparked my love of British literature, and I went onto major in English in college. Since then, I have read and re-read her novels, biographies and copies of her letters to her sister, Cassandra. Watching adaptations of her stories relaxes me. They are “my happy place.”
She also showed me, along with the rest of the world, that women could be great writers, intelligent and interesting, not merely second-class citizens penning accounts of nothingness, while the men went about having the adventures.
Jane Austen made it possible for me to write what I do today.
Last year, I visited her home in Chawton, Hampshire, England. It is a lovely cottage with a small garden to the side; “a prettyish sort of wilderness,” as Lady Catherine de Bourgh would call it.
I felt as if I had walked right into one of her novels. A display case held some of her letters. The cross necklaces owned by Jane and Cassandra, were there, along with a lock of her hair.
The sitting room held the greatest treasure. There, by the window, was a small octagonal table. Her writing desk! I imagined her sitting there, dipping the quill in ink, writing and re-writing, smirking to herself as she adjusts Mrs. Bennet’s rant about her poor nerves.
The mere thought overwhelmed me. I gently stroked the table, quickly though, as to not arouse suspicion. This was hallowed literary ground, and I was privileged to be there.
My family and I drove to Winchester Cathedral, about a half an hour away, to see her grave upon which I placed a simple bouquet of yellow roses for my dear old friend.
Her legacy is alive and well today. Have you seen how many novels are based on her characters?
Thank you, Crystal, for allowing me to rhapsodize about my favorite author on your blog. Dear readers, what is your favorite Jane Austen novel or movie adaptation?
Answer Karen's question in the comments to be entered to win a Kindle or B&N copy (ebook) of Karen's first novel in her The Bibliophiles series which is currently touring and I will be reviewing later today. I will gift one lucky commenter with a copy of it after Saturday, 1/7, open to wherever these can be gifted to. I will purchase the copy and send it to your email address.
About A Whisper to a Scream by Karen Wojcik Berner
Ovulation detectors. Hormone surges. Anxiety-ridden dreams. This is the world in which Annie Jacobs is thrust when she and her husband John receive a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. A 37-year old PR executive, Annie has wanted to be a mother since she first cuddled her Baby Tenderlove at age five. She is dreading another Christmas of relatives asking when they will be hearing the pitter patter of little feet, and Uncle Joe slapping John on the back, telling him to relax and take a cruise. Lots of people get pregnant on vacation, you know.
Across town, stay-at-home mom of two, Sarah Anderson, attempts grocery shopping with a toddler intent on hurling items from the cart at passersby. She notices a box of rice heading straight for a gray-haired head. Leaping across the aisle, Sarah grabs it, saving the woman from certain doom, or at least a minor head injury. Little Alex screams at being thwarted. The unknowing octogenarian shakes her head and admonishes Sarah for not knowing how to keep her child quiet in public.
"A Whisper to a Scream" is the story of two women on opposite ends of the child-bearing spectrum who come to realize the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. A vivid portrayal of contemporary marriage and its problems, the novel speaks to a longing in all of us, a yearning that might start as a vague notion, but eventually grows into an unbearable, vociferous cry.