I recently discovered that Jane Austen wrote some lesser known works when she was younger. As I've started reading more Austen, these early novels have been one of my favorite finds. Love and Friendship is a treasure in that it gives us a glimpse into Austen's worldview as a young girl. Understanding more about the author provides a richness of insight into her later works. Austen is a gem of an author that I am loving getting to know as I read more of her writings.Love and Friendship by Jane Austen
Published by Read & Company Classics on August 10, 2018
Buy on Amazon
Through a series of letters, 55-year-old Laura shares her escapades in Love and Friendship with her best friend's daughter. When reading this, it's important to keep in mind that Austen wrote this novel when she was 14. Writing a novel at that age is impressive, but her youthful imagination does not read like her more famous novels. That being said, I loved every minute of reading this story. Laura's adventures are wildly romantic and reflect her views of relationships in her day. A handsome young man shows up on her family's doorstep lamenting his awful arranged marriage and then falls in love with her! Since her father is conveniently a minister, they get married on the spot.
The ridiculousness ensues as Laura navigates meeting her in-laws, finding friends, and helping others along the way. If a character is no longer needed to advance the plot, they die. It isn't morbid or sad, just quickly disposed of! Her fearlessness in penning this story reminds me of the beauty of a youthful perspective on the way the world works. Don't read this too seriously, or you may just be disappointed.
Best life lesson of the book: too much swooning will kill you.
Austen and the Challenge B Short Story
One of my favorite assignments in the Classical Conversations program is in the exposition strand of second semester Challenge B: short stories. Students read classic short stories, and then they have the adventure of writing their own.
This can provide some conflict between parents and students as the eighth-grade mind sets to work at crafting a masterpiece. Typically they are somewhat ridiculous and parents struggle with reining in that imagination.
Maybe that was just my own experience, but then as I’ve read other short stories from other students, I find a similar theme in the struggle.
In my adventures reading back through Jane Austen novels, I discovered more of her work that she wrote in her younger years. Austen wrote Love and Friendship when she was fourteen. Ah…fourteen year old Austen.
Literary critics view Austen’s early work as a masterpiece of satire and wit—I read it with a comfort and humor that she’s just a Challenge B student writing a short story in the beautiful and ridiculous way that fourteen-year-olds do.
It is important to guide and direct our young writers, but it’s also good to give their imaginations the freedom to be a little ridiculous. It’s an important part of the learning process! But if you need a little comfort in the midst of it, go read Austen’s Love and Friendship. I hope it gives you a little chuckle and some patience with your young writer. It did for me!
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.