Monday, January 28, 2013

Phylly's favourite Austen

I very much enjoy the works of Jane Austen, and have read most of them more than once.  But my favourite is the most popular of her novels, none other than Pride and Prejudice. This year is the 200th anniversary of its publication.  Because of that, many Jane Austen fans (and fans of the novel) have banded together on a Blog Hop, hosted by Alyssa Goodnight and Stiletto Storytime.

My way of participating is to relate the story of how I came to be an admirer of Austen's works, and in particular - the novel we are celebrating now.  It's certainly not the usual way one might fall in love with an author, but then Jane Austen is not your usual author!

The first Austen novel that I encountered was given to me as a present by my best friend, when we were in our early teens.  I doubt that my friend had ever read it - she was into horror novels like Stephen King's.  She must have thought I would like it because of my love of "romantic fiction".  It was Emma (certainly not your typical type of romantic fiction), and although I tried to get to know our heroine, you must admit, she isn't really all that "likeable" at first.  Several times throughout my teen years, I attempted to plough through it, but I would get bogged down by all the gossip and tea times and long walks.  I couldn't really see the point of it all, and as I wasn't fond of the main character, there was nothing to keep me going.  Fast forward to me in college.  I was taking a course called a Survey of English Literature (or something like that).  It was just a simple introduction to a huge range of classic literature taught by a not unhandsome man of a certain age with a dreamy English accent!  I am not so sure I would have had such a perfect attendance record for those 8:00 am classes had they been taught by someone else!  So when he posted a list of authors we had to pick from to do a book review and I noticed Austen's name there, I figured it was a good opportunity to finally read Emma from cover to cover!
My favourite adaptation of Emma

So at last I finished it, and lo and behold, I liked it!  Once I got past the reason for all the gossip, I could see that the plot was as tight as any Agatha Christie mystery!  I must admit I was pleased when Emma got her comeuppance delivered most nobley by the heroic Mr. Knightly. That was probably the turning point for me, after that scene I was truly hooked.

The perfect P&P pairing

Years later when I saw the wonderful miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle on television I knew I had to read Pride and Prejudice. Not long after, we decided to purchase our first home computer.  I had heard of the Gutenberg project so I looked up what books were available to read online.  I probably tried to read a couple of books that way, but it was rather uncomfortable to sit too long at the computer, so I didn't get very far.  Then I saw Pride and Prejudice listed and noted that the chapter lengths were rather short.  So I thought that it would be a good idea to read just a couple of chapters in a sitting, then get up and do something else, and return to it later.  Turns out, it was so engrossing that I had no trouble reading more than a couple of chapters at one sitting.

The story enthralled, entertained and enchanted me from beginning to end.  I think that had Miss Austen written none other than this one book, she would still be as famous as she is today.  It is a perfect jewel of a book, polished to perfection.  Each word is well chosen and serves its purpose perfectly.  After that experience I headed to our local public library and was overjoyed to find that their collection contained most of Austen's works.  I discovered that even though I truly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, followed closely by Persuasion -- it was still Pride and Prejudice that I returned to over and over again.  Perhaps it was because I came from an all-girl family with a long suffering father that I related to it so well?

Whatever the reason, I am very glad I finally did succumb to the pleasures of Jane Austen's universe. If I could sum up my reading experience with Miss Austen I would have to say...
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Jane Austen, Pride And Prejudice

This isn't the first time I've written about my interest in Jane Austen's works. 
See this previous post about my trip to Bath, UK, where I seek out 
the Jane Austen Center despite all odds!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story of coming to love Jane! I love hearing how folks find her. I really didn't have much interest in her stories until I saw the '95 P&P. Hooked ever since. The Queen :)

April73 said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with Jane. :-)

"Pride and prejudice" is my favourite Austen's book. I love the 2005 movie with Matthew Macfadyen.

Anonymous said...

The Jennifer Erhle production is my favourite! An expressive Elizabeth. Of course, Mr. Firth deserves a mention. :D But he's done better things since that.

I did re-read all the Austen books a couple of years ago. Developed a special penchant for the foolish, funny Emma. And a bit of indifference for the martyred Anne of Persuasion.Boring girl. :)


Veronica said...

I like how Emma was your first Jane Austen experience. Mine was Sense and Sensibility. Eventually I too got to Pride and Prejudice and love it.

Anonymous said...

P&P is my absolute favorite novel. I stopped counting after I'd read it twenty times. I'm excited about the 200th anniversary and look forward to reading it again.

Phyllys Faves said...

Thanks so much for your comments here, everyone! I should have answered everyone individually but I was feeling under the weather lately. So tired, I can't stay up very late anymore. It is a struggle to do any blogging at all.
I'm sure I will feel better by spring! :)

Traxy said...

Try lots and lots of vitamin D! :) Apparently we don't produce ANY ourselves during the winter months above a certain latitude ... and that latitude is kind of ... south Mediterranean or something like that. The required UV rays get filtered out by the atmosphere. Something about angles!

Loved reading about your Austen discoveries. :) I don't think I had given costume dramas as "a thing" a second thought before P&P '95 was shown on TV. After that, it was like "GIVE ME MORE! This is good!" :)

Phyllys Faves said...

Believe me, I do take Vitamin D! I also take Omega 3-6-9 and a multivitamin so I think I've covered all the bases. It must help because I haven't really been sick this winter. My husband is still coughing after getting a bad flu bug a couple of weeks ago.
I have always loved costume dramas! And historical fiction is my favourite genre. It just took me some maturation time before I could appreciate Austen's brilliance! :)