Inspiring women: Jane Austen

I've put this one off as long as possible. Not because I have any hesitation expressing how much I love Jane Austen. Rather, I'm afraid that my admiration for her will be misunderstood. It's not based on that Colin Firth lake scene, enjoyable viewing as that might be. Or, heavens forbid, a modern retelling of one of her tales. It's based on her writing, pure and simple.

Austen's writing is acerbic, poking fun at her society and at the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. This biting commentary is often omitted in productions, which frequently reduce her stories to a simple quest to find the elusive Mr. Right.

But though Austen poked continuous fun at her character's foibles, she also managed to write women who we still relate to today. And, even in comedy, her characters reveal more complexity, depth and inner conflict than many more contemporary characters.

Austen also writes with a side glance at her audience, which gives her books an intimate tone. Satire usually is delivered from on high, so to achieve such intimacy in satire is remarkable. It is, no doubt, this feeling of intimacy that make so many of us love her books.

If you haven't read any Austen, Persuasion is my favourite.

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