Who are the Janeites?

The term ‘Janeites’ was coined by Rudyard Kipling who was a great admirer of Austen’s work. He wrote a short story called The Janeites set during the First World War. A group of men in the trenches discuss Jane’s novels, read from them and even name their big guns after her characters. It was a way of diverting their thoughts from the horrors around them. You can read the story on the internet.

Today, legions of Austen fans, especially in North America, call themselves Janeites.

Usually they are female, but not always! They have helped to put her books up there with the Bible and Dracula and other unlikely titles, as the most popular in the world.

Would Jane be horrified by the spinoffs, the souvenirs, the films and TV adaptions – or would she be excessively diverted?

I was excessively diverted this week when I heard that Richard Flanagan’s novel-The Narrow Road to the Deep North had won the Man Booker Prize. I read it a few months ago and I have been recommending it to everyone. It’s a brilliant, moving book. Don’t miss it.

Looking back, two books I’ve read in recent years stand out in my mind. I read so many books and enjoy most of them but some linger in the mind and others are easily forgotten.

One was Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s first novel Shadow of the Wind which I loved. The other was Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Set in 1665 in a remote village in Derbyshire it is a story of the plague year, mesmerising and unforgettable. Brooks is a brilliant American historical novelist who can evoke any period in any culture. The greatest tribute any writer can pay another is to think “ I wish I had written that!” I certainly thought that about all the novels I’ve mentioned.

Causing Pain to Jane…….

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