Jane Austen was a British author who lived in the eighteenth century. She wrote about love at a time when women were expected to marry well. Her books often criticize the wealth and attitudes of rich families.
“…for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
– Jane Austen
In those days, women were often taught skills that were less academic, such as cookery and sewing. However, Jane was always a keen reader and was lucky to be able to read her father and brother’s books. She also started writing poems and short stories to read to her family at a young age, although she didn’t become a published author until the age of 36.
To celebrate her birthday on December 16th, here are 4 of her most famous stories.
1. Sense and Sensibility (level 3)
Jane Austen’s first novel is perfect for A2 level learners. It follows the lives of the Dashwood sisters, who have to leave their childhood home when their father dies. They move to the countryside with their mother and adapt to life there, with new friends and neighbors.
It’s a story of romance, as Marianne Dashwood falls in love with a handsome young man called John Willoughby. However, when Willoughby is in London, he meets the rich Miss Grey, leaving Marianne heartbroken.
At the same time, the older Elinor is deciding her feelings for Edward Ferrars. Unfortunately, it seems he may already be in a relationship with another young woman, Lucy.
As the story develops, the two sisters discover more about themselves and each other, as well as the men around them.
To find out if they find true love, get your copy of the book here.
2. Emma (level 4)
In this wonderful story for B1 level students, we follow Emma as she involves herself in the romantic relationships of her friends and family.
Sadly, Emma isn’t as good at matchmaking as she believes. Although she tries to do well, she often causes her friends heartache. From convincing one friend to turn down a very good marriage proposal to feeling jealous of another friend, Emma is always busy.
But, after all her hard work to find everyone the perfect partner, will they all live happily ever after? And will Emma find love herself? Find your copy of the book here.
3. Pride and Prejudice (level 5)
Perhaps Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Bennett sisters, focusing especially on one of the older sisters, Elizabeth. It’s suitable for B2 level students.
Elizabeth is an independent young woman and is quick to decide and share her opinion about life. This causes her some trouble, as she can often be stubborn. Her older sister, Jane, finds it difficult to change Elizabeth’s mind once she has made an opinion.
Throughout the story, we follow Elizabeth as she takes care of her sisters – kind, quiet Jane, plain Mary, and the two foolish and irresponsible younger girls, Kitty and Lydia. We also see their father, Mr Bennett, who quietly deals with the situation. Meanwhile, his wife is determined to see all five daughters with good husbands as soon as possible.
It’s an engaging story, with romance and intrigue – but will Elizabeth ever admit to her pride and prejudice? Get your copy to find out.
4. Becoming Jane (level 3)
Our last reader is a biographical novel by Kevin Hood. It tells us more about Jane Austen’s life and her relationship with Thomas Lefroy.
Jane frequently wrote letters to her older sister, Cassandra, and historians were able to read these and put together some details of her life. Unfortunately, Cassandra also threw away many letters, as they often contained insults to family members – like the character of Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Austen wasn’t afraid to share her opinion!
Reading the story, it’s easy to see the inspiration for her novels coming from her own experiences, as well as giving a wonderful idea of what life was like for Austen at the time.
Perhaps after picking up a copy, you’ll be inspired to write your own novel!
All our Jane Austen readers are available with an MP3 pack, so your students can listen along as they read. There is also a teacher’s resource pack available on the website which you can download for free.
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
– Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen, 1818)
What’s your favorite Jane Austen novel? Let us know in the comments!
Prefer something for young learners? Read our recent post: 6 delightful Disney Readers to celebrate Walt Disney’s birthday.