(The original meme said 20 books plus 1 series, but that would be inhuman. I think there's something in the Geneva Convention about it.)
You can put the series anywhere in your list, but mark it with an asterisk.
Here are mine . . .
( The indispensables )
( Image-heavy post ahead! )
Have you ever noticed that there's no real physical description of Elizabeth? I've always thought, and still think, that Jennifer Ehle looked exactly right for the part, but that's not based on anything in the text -- it's just based on how I think Elizabeth should look. (It's probably also based on this picture on the cover of my copy.) But the narrator tells us nothing directly of how she looks -- only how other people perceive her. Most interesting, of course, are the perceptions of Darcy, whose view of her goes from "tolerable" to "pretty" to "one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance" to "loveliest Elizabeth."
Having written this, it occurs to me that doubtless there's some scholar out there who's written a dissertation on Elizabeth as the "object of the male gaze" or some such rot -- as if Elizabeth Bennet could ever be any sort of passive "object."
[Edited to add: I'm sorry that came out sounding rude. As I clarified in the comments, I don't mind when it's pointed out that some female character really is being objectified; I only mind those scholars who see objectification everywhere they look, without ceasing. That's the kind of scholar I was complaining about.]
Personally, I think it's a brilliant move on Austen's part, for several reasons. Mainly because Darcy is so undemonstrative that this subtle technique is perfect for giving us insight into his feelings . . . not to mention serving as a rather amusing commentary on beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
Of course, it's not much better than what happens in the book. I love Austen, I really do. She was a genius and many of her books are right up there among my favorites. But her love scenes are just so . . . unsatisfying.
Just a few thoughts inspired by my recent viewing of North and South:
It occurs to me that many of the most popular 19th-century romantic heroes are the haughty, brooding ones, and that a lot of these were created by women. Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy, Charlotte Brontë's Mr. Rochester, Emily Brontë's Heathcliff, Elizabeth Gaskell's John Thornton -- they all fit this pattern. (Say what you will about Heathcliff -- I hear a lot of people say nowadays that he shouldn't be considered a romantic hero at all -- but I still think he counts.) This is not to say that Austen and the other women never wrote about sensitive men, or even sensitive heroes, but generally their best known heroes seem to be the proud brooders. There are probably at least five Mr. Darcy fangirls for every Captain Wentworth fangirl.
On the other hand, when Dickens gives us a romantic hero -- say, Arthur Clennam, David Copperfield, or Nicholas Nickleby -- that hero tends to be outwardly gentler and more warm-hearted. A "sensitive male," if you will, though I don't really care for the term. I find it fascinating that these are the sort of romantic heroes that the century's greatest male novelist was creating, while the women were fashioning a very different sort of model.
And personally, I also find it fascinating that the vast majority of modern women prefer the haughty types, while I, a traditionalist in many ways, am so much more drawn to the Dickensian heroes. If one adhered to stereotypes, one might expect it to be the other way around.
What this all means . . . I'm not really sure! But it's interesting to think about. At least, I think it is.