Do you have that one book that you go back to again and again? For me, it’s Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read it countless times, first when I was about 13. The movie version starring Keira Knightley had just come out, and I was the only one of my friends who hadn’t seen it. Why? Because even then I had a thing about reading a book before I saw its movie. Call me weird or outdated or whatever you want, but that’s how I roll.
I don’t remember where I was going, but I took the book with me on an airplane and just devoured it over the flights there and back. I immediately watched the movie and realized I was in love. Then I rented the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and fell even harder. I read Mr. Darcy’s Diary, The Jane Austen Book Club, Sense and Sensibility, and plenty of other Jane Austen related novels through high school and was even involved in my own Austen book club at one point. I had the Barnes and Noble Classics version of the novel, and it lived in my car for so many years that the cover is now faded and antique looking.
Then I went to college and became an English major. In one spring class, I studied all of Austen’s novels along with the history and culture of the time period. Instead of ruining my favorite pleasure read, I found that studying Austen and her characters in a classroom setting actually enhanced my reading experience. I’m fascinated by the time period, the social conventions, the role of women, even the dancing. I have to admit that after getting to learn English Country dancing in two different settings, I’m a bit of an enthusiast and totally wouldn’t be opposed to going to one of those Regency period balls!
I think the main reason I can read Pride and Prejudice every year is that Jane Austen reminds me that the world is ever changing and that what I consider “the norm” won’t even resemble life two hundred years from now. On the other hand, her stories bring me comfort; in her lifetime as in mine, people are simply looking for love, happiness, respect, and sometimes they bungle things up pretty well before they find it. Humans are humans, yesterday, today, and even tomorrow, and that’s something I can get behind.
On a more personal note, Jane Austen pushes me to follow through with my dreams. Because if “A Lady” can publish six novels in a time when women were to be seen and not heard (and definitely not read), what’s my excuse?
Do you have a favorite book that you can read again and again? Which Jane Austen book speaks to you?