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The Voice of Jane Austen

Penquin Classic Audiobooks brought out a set of audio books a few years ago and I was asked to review them.   With 10 books to listen to it could have been a chore, but they were exactly read by skilled actors and it was an enriching experience.  Last week I listened to Pride and Prejudice again while driving by myself to the north.  It was an even fresher more entertaining listening experience than when I first heard it read by Joanna David.  The journey took a bit longer when I turned RDS off because I was eager to listen to the next part of the story.
July 15th was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. Claire Tomalin, herself a wonderful writer, chose Pride and Prejudice as her favourite Jane Austen novel.  Jane Austen first drafted the novel in 1790 and read it aloud to friends and family who, it would be lovely to imagine, recognised some of the personalities in the novel.  I wonder at the wit and  vivacity and changes of Jane Austen’s voice while she was reading?  The opening lines still ring true for many women, who travel from near and far and via the internet, with this thought in their minds:  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”  This statement gets us as readers hooked, but soon discover the protagonist’s  Elizabeth Bennet’s  independence of thought with regard to her circumstances.   Great wealth is not something she would sacrifice her happiness for.   Ironically it is her independence that helps her fulfil the opening statement of the novel.   Ahdaf Soueif  writes in the same Guardian article: “Austen’s genius is that you find in her a true reflection of whatever you, at a particular moment, think is a reality.”
This collection of Penguin classic Audiobooks is sadly no longer available, a couple of mine are missing (not Pride and Prejudice) via clients on the Speak English Clearly course, well,  they are very good to listen to.  You can get downloads of the classic Penguin novels but they are read by other narrators.

Jane Austen – click for article



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