A definitive ranking of Jane Austen’s novels

I’m a massive Jane Austen fan. During quarantine, I purchased a compilation of her works, and it renewed my love for her novels. 

Today I’m ranking Austen’s books from least favorite to favorite. My order changes constantly, but this tends to be the way things fall. Obviously this is based on my opinion, so if you disagree with me, I mean no offense (unless you seriously like Edmund Bertram from Mansfield Park…in that case, offense intended, lol). 

#6: Mansfield Park 

One of Austen’s most highly debated works, Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price as she moves through childhood and early adulthood. Born into a poor family, Fanny is sent at age 10 to live with her wealthy relatives at their home, Mansfield Park. Complications arise for Fanny and her cousins at the arrival of Mary and Henry Crawford, who bring with them an abundance of charm and influence. 

Mansfield Park is Austen’s most morally-centric work. The protagonist, Fanny, is timid, soft spoken, and modest. Many readers consider her to be Austen’s least likeable heroine, as she doesn’t possess the same cleverness and wit as characters such as Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliot. 

Although I don’t love Fanny, I appreciate her unwillingness to compromise her beliefs and morals, even when it goes against what others want from her. Fanny might be quiet and shy, but she stays true to her principles, which I find admirable. 

The character I hated? The one who made this book easy for me to rank last? Edmund. 

Not only did I dislike the romance between him and Fanny, but I found Edmund to be absolutely insufferable. His interactions with Fanny feel condescending, and he only chooses to marry her after he discovers Mary Crawford’s true nature. 

Compared to Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, Edmund is a dull romantic lead. How am I supposed to root for the man who treats his love interest like an afterthought until the end of the novel? 

In conclusion, Edmund Bertram is the worst, and that’s the hill I’m prepared to die on. 

Favorite quote: “Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.” 

#5: Sense and Sensibility 

Sense and Sensibility follows the lives of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who are forced to leave from their family’s estate and move to a cottage after the death of their father. The novel is a story of contrasts. Elinor is logical, practical, and reserved, while her younger sister, Marianne, is spontaneous, idealistic, and expressive. Both sisters experience loss and heartbreak as they adapt to their new lives. 

My favorite aspect about Sense and Sensibility is the battle between convention and emotion. Elinor and Marianne are polar opposites, and their contrasting personalities lead them to interesting conflicts. The troubles endured by the Dashwood sisters reveal that a person needs to find a balance between sense and sensibility in order to live a successful life. 

Though I enjoyed the dynamic between Elinor and Marianne, the romance in Sense and Sensibility wasn’t my favorite. Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon aren’t as compelling as some of Austen’s other love interests. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if Elinor or Marianne ended up with either of them. 

Favorite quote: “I have kept my feelings to myself because I could find no language to describe them in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense and meaning.”

#4: Northanger Abbey 

Though Northanger Abbey is fourth in my ranking, it’s one of my favorite books. This story tells the tale of 17-year-old Catherine Morland, a naive girl with a love for Gothic novels. Catherine lives an ordinary life, but her obsession with horror stories causes her to seek out the supernatural. As the novel progresses, Catherine develops a better understanding of herself and the world around her. 

A satire, Northanger Abbey is a parody of the Gothic novels that were popular at the time. It’s one of Austen’s funniest works, and it pokes fun at some of the plot devices you frequently see in Gothic stories. 

One of my favorite scenes is when Catherine discovers a strange cabinet in her room. She opens it, expecting to find something sinister, but it contains nothing but old bills. It’s an amusing scene that not only shows how Catherine’s overactive imagination gets her into trouble, and also reveals the importance of separating life from fiction. 

Northanger Abbey is a coming-of-age story filled with humor and clever observations about high society. 

Favorite quote: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” 

#3: Emma 

This novel follows Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy young woman with a tendency for matchmaking that often leads her into trouble. Unlike Austen’s other protagonists, Emma is selfish and frivolous, manipulating those around her with little regard. Despite her flaws, Emma is an interesting and complex heroine. Her vanity causes her problems throughout the course of the novel, but she grows as a character, too. It’s amusing to see her matchmaking “skills” become the source of her conflict. Emma also offers some thoughtful insights on marriage and social status during the time period. 

Favorite quote: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

#2: Persuasion 

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old, unmarried (*gasp*) woman who reencounters her former fiancé, Frederick Wentworth, seven years after she called off their engagement. 

This novel focuses on the ideas of regret and the influence of others. Anne still loves Frederick and only ended their relationship because she was persuaded that he wasn’t a suitable match for her. Persuasion explores what happens when one’s sense of duty conflicts with their desire for happiness. It’s interesting to see how Anne struggles with the aftermath of her decision to leave Frederick.  

Frederick is one of my favorite Austen leads. You can really feel for him in his unsuccessful efforts to move on from Anne. Plus, (spoiler alert!!) the love letter he writes Anne is absolutely unmatched. 

Favorite quote: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

#1: Pride and Prejudice

Surprise, surprise. My favorite Austen novel is none other than her most beloved work: Pride and Prejudice. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet after she meets Mr. Darcy, a proud and arrogant man whom she immediately dislikes. Over the course of the novel, the two meet several more times at social gatherings, and their opinions of one another begin to change. 

Pride and Prejudice is a classic for a reason. The love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is timeless, and you see their characters evolve as they realize they were wrong in their initial impressions of each other. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice multiple times, and I never get tired of it. 

Favorite quote: “What are young men to rocks and mountains?”

What’s your favorite Jane Austen novel? 

Sincerely,

Paige

7 thoughts on “A definitive ranking of Jane Austen’s novels

  1. I love this Paige. I really love P&P too. But I wish I had read the book before I had seen TV and movie versions. I read Persuasion before I had seen any dramatizations and I had no idea what the end was going to be. The last couple of chapters amazed me.

    Like

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