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Never Read Jane Austen? Start with her Three Funniest Novels

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Jane Austen's three funniest novels - Enya's Attic

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 Most readers have heard of Jane Austen.

And even if you’ve never read one of Austen’s six complete novels, chances are she’s an unticked box on your TBR list - Particularly if you have a fondness for classic fiction.  So, if her books are in your sightlines, which one should you start with?  

Truthfully, you really can’t go wrong choosing a first Austen; They’re all classics for a reason – wonderfully written with memorable characters and relevant no matter the time and place.

That said, anyone coming fresh to the famed author should, in my opinion, be introduced immediately to one of the main reasons she’s so fussed over – her strongsense ofcomedy.

Because among the shrewd social commentary and surprisingly complex characters, Jane Austen was also very, very funny (and I’m talking “laugh out loud funny”).

So if you want to start reading Austen, crack open these three most chucklesome novels first and discover why this 19th-century woman writer is considered one of the world’s wittiest authors. 

 

Northanger Abbey 

Northanger Abbey was one of the two novels published after Austen’s death, but she wrote it when she was young andbefore all the others. As a result, it’s still got the juicy bite of burlesque humour and eyebrow-arching satire that her teenage writing self so enjoyed. 

Full of fun and comical characters, it’s a parody of the gothic novels so popular in her day, where gloomy castles loomed and heroines found themselves in peril. 

The novel’s naïve young protagonist Catherine Morland makes her first-ever trip to Bath. 

There she meets and befriends two familiesthe scheming Thorpes and the wealthy educated Tilneys. It’s the latter that invites her to spend some time at their family home. 

Once she gets there, this eager young reader of gothic novels, convinces herself that all is not well in the family estate and that the Tilney’s stern patriarch is hiding a deep, dark secret …But is he?

 

Emma

Emma is often considered Austen’s masterpiece. The titular character is a wealthy young woman with an energy and enthusiasm for meddling in the lives of those around her – brought on mainly by the fact that she has little to do in her own life.

However, because she's somewhat self-deluded, so begins a comedy of errors wherein mistakes, misunderstandings and several broken hearts result. 

Austen doesn’t hold back in poking fun at her heroine, and she makes room for us to revel in it too. This highlights her skill as a writer, not just in being able to bring us in on the joke while Emma herself remains unaware of her snafus, but also by craftily exploring the complicated feelings most women have (even 200 years ago!) towards others of their gender deemed more successful (and prettier) than them. 

The novel is full of great wit and snark, and quite a few cringe-worthy laugh-out-loud moments – all of which make it a hugely enjoyable read.

 

 BUY IT NOW: Emma by Jane Austen - €8,50

 

Pride and Prejudice

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice  is Jane Austen’s best-known novel. 

Even if you haven’t read the classic, you’ve likely seen at least one of the countless TV and movie adaptations.

Most of these movies focus on the girl-meets-boy aspect of the book. But while P&P is very much a blueprint for the modern rom-com, there’s also a lot of smart social commentary on what it meant to be an early 19th-century woman needingto snag a spouse as a means of by-passing poverty, destitution and possible starvation. 

In truth, the social concerns of the novel only strengthen the novel’s power, adding complex layers to its jibes and fun.

The plot (in case you don’t know!) centres on the tempestuous relationship between the proud Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, an arrogant, aristocratic landowner.

They meet, dislike each other, find yet more reasons to dislike each other, and then (spoiler alert!) finally fall in love. 

Entwined in all of this are various romantic adventures embarked upon by some of Lizzy’s other four single sisters, and a slew of comic and catty characters to keep the plot jollying along nicely. 

 

 BUY IT NOW: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - €8,50

The Bottom Line

If you only ever read these three funniestAusten novels, your time will be well spent. Not only will you have engaged with the work of one of the greatest British authors of all time and gained sharp insight into the lives of 19th-century women – but you’ll havehad a lot of laughs along the way. 

Not a bad way to spend an hour or seven!

 

Don't forget to download our FREE Booklist of "100 Books by Women Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime".

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