My Journey to JAFF
By Georgina Young-Ellis
We all have our own moment, the one in which we said to ourselves, “I’m hooked.” Like many other Jane Austen fans, I can safely say it was the moment I read the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice. For others, it may have been a different instance altogether, or it might have taken longer for the journey. There are plenty of people, however, who look at me oddly when I profess to being a Jane Austen fanatic, responding with: “I read Pride and Prejudice in school but I don’t remember it.” I often just stare blankly back at these people until I remember to say something polite in return, because, what I’m really thinking is: Don’t remember it? How could you not remember something that has such an impact on so many? And why did it not have an impact on you? What is wrong with you? I feel sorry for these people because mayhap they simply had a bad English teacher that caused such a masterpiece to fade to the back of their memories.
The fact is, I started reading Austen in my early twenties, which was, I hate to admit, quite a long time ago, when, in America at least, it seemed Austen fanatics were a clandestine group who stumbled upon each other by accident, joyously sharing their insights on Austen’s work, and then creeping back into the shadows again. We possessed only very dated movie versions of Jane’s books, and no internet with which to share our rabid love.
When the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries was released, everything seemed to change. It was followed in quick succession by Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, Roger Michell’s Persuasion, Clueless—a darling retelling of Emma; Emma itself with Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as the TV miniseries of Emma with Kate Beckinsale, and Mansfield Park with Francis O’Conner. I think those who didn’t consider themselves Jane Austen fans before had their heads turned with these great film portrayals and, perhaps, the films made people go back and read the books. Then Bridget Jones’ Diary stormed the scene and suddenly, women were fangirl-ing their heads off about Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t even know fan fiction existed before Bridget Jones, but now I realize that book was my first foray into it. And I liked it, but I was still unaware that there was an underground movement of JAFF authors growing already.
Now that I am ensconced in the reading and writing of JAFF, I actually have something to confess. I kind of miss the time when it was a rare surprise to come across a kindred spirit with whom I could hungrily discuss Jane Austen: the merits of Persuasion as opposed to Mansfield Park for example, or Northanger Abbey versus Sense and Sensibility. These discussions were about more than which hero was hotter: Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, or Captain Wentworth or which villain was more dastardly: Wickham or Willoughby. They were serious conversations of the plots, the characters, and the prose. I’ll never forget when I told a staunch Jane scholar my favorite of Austen’s novels was Northanger Abbey, and her telling me how “immature” a choice that was. Though I disagreed with her, it made me go back and read, and reread again, all the novels, eventually admitting that Pride and Prejudice was probably the most well composed, though I still maintain that Northanger Abbey is the most amusing. My favorite now though is Persuasion, which, to me, is the most heart-wrenching, while also so satisfyingly romantic.
Do I wish the Austen fervor would die down? Of course not. It’s thrilling to see how many readers around the world have embraced “my” Jane. And certainly, she has been one of the most revered, if not always as popular, writers in the English language for a couple of centuries now. So, no, I don’t begrudge the world its love of Austen, I just miss the days when I could consider her, more or less, my own. Anyway, read on, JAFF lovers! I’ve willingly joined your ranks! Just remember to go back to her sometimes, and revel in those original words, written by the mistress herself, that started the whole thing.
Author Bio: Georgina Young-Ellis lives in Portland, Oregon, a magical place full of inspiration for a writer. She has a rock star son, and a wonderful husband who is her own personal cheering section. Georgina writes romantic, time travel fiction, and has four books available in my Time Mistress Series: The Time Baroness, which takes place in Regency England; The Time Heiress, a journey to pre-Civil War New York City; The Time Contessa, set in Renaissance Italy; and The Time Duchess, an adventure to Elizabethan England. She also has the Elizabeth, Darcy and Me Series, which includes Elizabeth, Darcy & Me and the upcoming Elizabeth, Darcy & Me: The Quarrel.
Website, featuring the Time Mistress Series and the Elizabeth, Darcy & Me Series