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Janeite Spotlight: Introducing Char Jones

Hello, dear readers! This year, we’ve begun a blog series highlighting Austen-lovers around the world—sharing how they first discovered Austen’s fiction, why they love Austen, how they’ve contributed to the Janeite community, you get the picture. Fans, who cultivate and engage in discourse surrounding Austen’s life and fiction, participate in workshops and conventions, host book clubs, and don I ❤️ Darcy merchandise with pride (but hopefully not prejudice—wink, wink), are the reason Jane’s spirit survives in the twenty-first century. We deserve a shout-out! And we deserve the chance to connect with like-minded individuals across the world. Our next Janeite Spotlight is dedicated to Char Jones, a passionate Janeite and truly delightful woman I had the pleasure of getting to know via email.


 

Char Jones

Char Jones was born in the American Midwest in 1953, blessed with parents who read to her early on. Now, she is a proudly “seasoned” woman of seventy, with white I-don't-care-hair and an attitude. Her first words read independently were "Burger Beer" (once "Burger Bohemian") on a billboard in her brewery town, but with Jane in the wings, much better material awaited! And what she knew at two remains true today:


"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!" - Pride and Prejudice

Char's first proposal - so cute!

Char’s first “Austen moment” transpired at the age of five, when she received her first marriage proposal, for which her mother ensured she was “well-coiffed & gowned.” At the age of ten, she read eighty-eight books in one year and won her class reading contest—but alas, Austen did not grace her elementary reading list.


It was only in 1996—on January 14, specifically—that A & E aired the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice in America and changed Char’s life forever. She recalls Colin Firth's soaked, puffy shirt as if she’d seen it just yesterday for the first time. “How I swooned! How I still swoon!” She rooted for Lizzy and Darcy even when they seemed fated never to become a match. And when Fitzwilliam uttered the most romantic proposal of all (“dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!”), she wept with joy.


When Char began her journey with Jane, she had recently separated from her first husband and was living alone for the first time. Her two cats were her only companions; her furniture was stored 1,500 miles away in Denver. She ached for the mountains of Colorado where they had lived, remembering their many hikes—including the 14,270-ft Grays Peak. She related to Elizabeth Bennet’s anticipation for the Lake District with its stunning vistas: “What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! What hours of transport we shall spend!”


What are men to rocks and mountains, indeed?

Finding solace in Pride and Prejudice, Char quickly sought out the rest of Austen’s fiction. According to Char, “Jane's books and their movie adaptations hit me like a fou de coudre!” She cites the following line from Northanger Abbey to describe Austen’s own work:  "It is only a novel ... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language."


Throughout her life, Char has donned many different hats: she earned a history degree from the University of Cincinnati, wrote for The Cincinnati Enquirer, penned film reviews and healthcare newsletters, and served as a health care executive. Much like a modern-day Emma, she even put her innate romantic instincts to use as a professional life coach helping singles in the United States find true love. All the while, she was buoyed by Jane’s delightful tales—and their thrilling adaptations—that instilled hope into her once lonely life.


Some of Char's favorite Austen adaptations

When it finally came time to retire, she found a new métier at the age of sixty-five as an online book critic. She quickly earned the #2 Top Reader and #8 Top Reviewer spots on the then 75-million-member Goodreads site. Using Facebook as her blog, she soon drew the max possible number of Friends (5,000) and expanded her audience to sixty countries. Heady times!


Many Austen books, variations, and Jane-as-protagonist tales have been featured in her now 1,600+ reviews. “Jane has become a gentle constant presence,” Char says. Char admits that she is “addicted to the online Janeite community, be it on Facebook, Insta[gram], X, Goodreads, or even LinkedIn.” Unlike some groups that exist on the internet, Janeites are a warm welcoming bunch, and she is very grateful for these literary friendships.


According to Char, Jane Austen still attracts and resonates with readers across the world today because “she was destined to be the world's greatest novelist.” In fact, Char would put Pride and Prejudice against the likes of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina any day. And to learn that Jane wrote First Impressions, the initial draft for Pride and Prejudice, at the shockingly young age of twenty-one—wow! She adds, “Austen writes with intelligence, wit, and keen insight into society and relationships. She also brings a unique sensibility to her work, one that needs no ‘steam’ to convey thrilling love.”

A picture-perfect romance

Looking forward, Char would love the chance to visit Austen-related locations in England—such as the beautiful city of Bath, one of my own personal favorites—or attend an Austen-themed conference like JASP. In the meantime, she will continue living out her own love story with her second husband, a romantic man with whom she has been married twenty years. Char credits Jane Austen with opening her heart towards him, and for “inspiring [her] renewed literary passion in the Third Age.” Austen couldn’t have written it better herself!


Connect with Char via Instagram, Facebook, X, LinkedIn, or Goodreads.


Excerpted from email correspondence with Char Jones, February 4, 2024.


 

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a future Janeite Spotlight article, please fill out this form. We can’t wait to hear from you!

1 opmerking


Char is a gem of a person and such a champion of writers and literature! I hope there's a trip to England in her near future!

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