Jane Austen: Contemporary Romance Author

I can’t believe I’m blogging again. And no, no-one I know has died. At least, no-one I know well enough to blog about.

Unless you count Jane Austen. She has been dead a while though, so it’s hardly news.

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This urge to talk comes about because someone on social media commented that they don’t read Jane Austen for the romance. It was phrased in such a way to imply the “romance” was the lesser part of the story, almost incidental to the greater good of the books.

Now I know when Austen was writing, romance was a term for any tale that was not true. Even rather fanciful. It has only been in the last few decades that the Romance Genre has been strictly defined. I totally blame pulp fiction, but that’s an argument for another day.

What I find interesting is that we tend to think of Jane Austen as a historical author. Not surprising when you consider the number of costume dramas filmed in the last century based on her books. But of course she was a contemporary writer. She was writing about her peers. Not dukes and peers of the realm, but society as she knew it. Bobbing about just under that class of people but definitely above the general masses.

It made me wonder what she might have written if she lived in our contemporary society. Would she be writing about a Bridget Jones and her Mr Darcy or might she be tempted to get a little raunchy after reading some Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins.

With better health care might she have lived to be a wicked old lady being interviewed by James Corden and doing a little car Karaoke. I wonder who her favourite modern music artist would be.

God forbid, maybe she would have been picked up by Harlequin Mills & Boon and be writing Presents romances about billionaires and feisty heroines adding a touch of snark about the hangers on. Imagine if she’d been the scriptwriter for Pretty Woman.

But no. Jane would have been above all that. She would have written some deeply meaningful snark about society published by Simon & Schuster and no-one would have wanted to film it.

Or would they? Would she have hidden the snark behind a romance between a stuffy politician and a eco-warrior who spends her time protecting an obscure bird that only nests in a swamp outside Meryton from the incursions of an army of messy campers including a charming rogue who tells a sad tale of meeting injustice from the politician.

Nah. Not likely.

All I do know is that two hundred years later, Jane Austen is still being read and filmed and no-one I know has watched Pride and Prejudice sixteen times for the social commentary. At least, not solely for the social commentary.

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