The realist novel was basically a new concept during the 19th century. Prior to realistic novels, most literature consisted on stories about historical heroes, myths, or chivalric love. Surely it must have come as a shock for the most conservative of English reader to suddenly see the advent of a generation of writers whose style is far from idealistic, allegorical nor complicated.
In fact, the realist novel aims to present a live stamp of everyday life complete with situations that have a beginning, middle, and end. The problems hit close to the reader because the reader himself can immediately connect to the characters and their issues.
Jane Austen was only one of many others in the early 1800s which adopted this narrative style. Using a third person omniscient narrator, Austen described the issues of her day such as the position of women in society, the lack of rights for women, the importance of marriage, and the inability of women to choose an independent life for themselves.
All this was done through her characters, who had to figure out ways to resolve their problems within the story. Therefore, you can conclude that Jane Austen and other realists were perhaps the first writers to help us see their reality through fiction, but with very realistic expression.