It’s no secret that I absolutely love Jane Austen – I even dedicated a whole month last year to reading just Austen (Austen August).
I’ve reached a point where I’ve now read all of Jane Austen’s novels (some multiple times!) so I thought it would be a good idea to rank them all from worst to best.
A quick disclaimer here: in my eyes, there isn’t a bad Jane Austen book. I love all of her books and enjoyed reading each one immensely. Austen is such a fantastic writer; her satire, humour, and social observation all make her books very special, revealing, and enjoyable for me; I would read any of them again in a heartbeat (and I plan to!)
So without further ado…
Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility focuses on Elinor and Marianne Dashwood who have to move out of their house after the death of their father leaves them and their mother with no money. They move in with their distant relatives, the Middletons. The story tells of how Elinor and Marianne (representing common sense and emotional sensibility respectively) try to navigate their new surroundings.
It’s not a bad book. It’s actually a very enjoyable read. However, you can tell that it is Austen’s first novel and I wasn’t particularly excited by the ending.
“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”
I was shocked when I read that Mansfield Park was actually seen as Jane Austen’s best novel for a long time. There’s a strong focus on morals and right and wrong (so that could be why…). Mansfield Park follows Fanny Price who goes to live with her rich relatives and her journey from her impoverished childhood to her developed and much-changed adulthood.
This is definitely the most complex of Jane Austen’s novels with many, many interpretations and understandings (just have a look online, there’s so many!) I feel like it’s the kind of book you could read again and again and still get something new from it each time.
“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.”
Persuasion is one of Austen’s works that was published posthumously. The book focuses on Anne Elliot and her journey to marriage. Anne is 27-years old and feeling hte pressure to marry; she was once engaged to Captain Wentworth but was encouraged to turn him down by her family due to his wealth and status. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth meet again. Both are single. Both of their situations have completely switched around; Anne Elliot is now poor and Captain Wentworth is now rich.
Besides Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion is the only other Austen story where I actually believed in and desperately wanted the couple to come together (I totally ship Anne and Captain Wentworth)
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
It took me a while to warm to Emma, but as Austen said “I am going to take a heroine who no one but myself will much like” and Emma definitely embodies that. Emma is spoiled, beautiful, rich and has a penchant for meddling and matchmaking. I found Emma to be one of the most memorable characters and most interesting. It has the softness of Pride and Prejudice but with a different and sharper side to it. Although I would never say that Emma Woodhouse is one of my favourite Austen characters (she’s far too unbearable for that!), I do believe there are some very serious and impactful aspects of this story. Definitely one to read!
“I may have lost my heart, but not my self control”
The most recent Austen book I read. I loved Northanger Abbey for its satirical elements. Though I am a fan of gothic novels (and Austen clearly was not), the story satirizes the gothic genre that was very popular at the time. It’s memorable, funny and engaging. Northanger Abbey is about Catherine Morland who moves to Bath; the perfect setting to be in the centre of high-society and to satirize class issues. Catherine meets Henry Tilney who invites her to his abbey where her book-loving, wild imagination can run free. It’s fast-paced for an Austen novel and Catherine is constantly kept on her feet by the Thorpes (a questionable group of friends she makes in Bath…).
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Pride and Prejudice
Of course the number 1 spot goes to Pride and Prejudice; perhaps Austen’s most famous novel. Completely predictable but my heart said it had to happen. I love Elizabeth Bennet and this may well be the main reason for it being number 1 on the list… If you don’t know what the story of Pride and Prejudice is (where have you been?!), it follows Lizzie Bennet and her four other sisters (all unmarried). Their mother is absolutely desperate to marry her daughters off and ensure they are sorted for life. But Lizzie has other ideas…
It’s beautifully written and, in my eyes, you can’t fault it!
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
What are you favourite Jane Austen novels? How would you rank them?
Love Zoë xx