It is the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park. In honor of this, here is a ranking of Jane Austen’s novels from “worst” to best.
6. Northanger Abbey- Though Austen’s first novel is quite funny (like all of her work), it is also quite obviously her first novel. The book simply isn’t as interesting as the one’s that followed, and Tilney is no Darcy.
5. Mansfield Park- It goes to show how awesome an author Austen is that the book that was the impetus for this article is so very good and yet in 5th place. The reason for this is that even the most diehard Austen fans aren’t really a fan of the books central character (no pun intended here), Fanny. She seems judgmental to many readers, which keeps Mansfield Park from ranking higher on this list.
4. Sense and Sensibility- The story of the Dashwood sisters is far more relatable to many than the trials of Fanny. Sense and Sensibility is a story, at its heart, about sisterly bonds and relationships between women. The two central characters, Elinor and Marianne, are similar in many ways, except in their approach to love, something that many women can relate to. The sisterly disapproval of Elinor is interesting and well handled. Also Mrs. Jennings is hilarious.
3. Persuasion- The thing that puts Persuasion so high on the list is the worthwhile moment when the ready gets to realize that Captain Wentworth really did love Anne for the eight years that they had been apart. The book is also Austen’s last novel, and it is very apparent from reading it that it is the work of a skilled writing who has developed and improved quite a bit since Northanger Abbey.
2. Emma- Emma is perhaps one of Austen’s most memorable characters. She is in the wrong for most of the book, and yet is completely likable throughout. She represents the shortsightedness that can happen in many social situations, and the ways in which one can be accidentally caddy when influenced by the wrong people (Frank Churchill is rude). The love between Emma and Mr. Knightly is believable and quite a great read.
1. Pride and Prejudice- While this book being ranked as the best on the list is an expected conclusion to come to, it is also a true one. The reason that Pride and Prejudice stands out above all the others is because of the sexual tension. We can never know if Austen was intentional about that tension, but it is definitely there in a way that it isn’t really in her others novels. There’s a whiff of it in Emma but most of the romances at the center of Austen’s novels get admonished and punished if they are too passionate. Somehow Lizzie Bennett escapes this and marries the man that she really has the hots for and readers have been eating it up for two centuries.