Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Re-reading Jane Austen

It is a truth universally known that Jane Austen is a constant staple in our pop-culture. You can scarcely turn around without finding an adaptation of her books or her life in some incarnation, and the masses continue to eat them up. (Myself included) We love to passionately argue over which Darcy is our favourite (Colin Firth-no contest) and the 2009 parody of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a smash success, popularizing the literary mash-up genre. Recently, I came across a charming BBC mini-series called Lost in Austen, and I confess- I was bitten once again by the Austen Bug.

Re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time as an adult was a wonderful experience. Having read the novel at least 3x in university, and having been consistently exposed to the various adaptations, I wasn't sure what to expect with this re-reading. Had I stayed away from the book long enough that I could find anything fresh to consider? Would I look at the book any differently than I had as a young woman in her early 20's with all the naivete and lack of life experience of some of her characters? And most importantly, could I enjoy reading something again that I practically knew by heart?

The answer turned out to be a resounding yes on all counts. Knowing the story so well, there were no real surprises in the plot, but I was surprised to find myself paying much more attention to the narrator's voice this time, and looking for the subtexts that I may not have seen in my earlier readings.

Firstly, there were numerous times that I wanted to throttle Elizabeth for being so ridiculously proud, and for her own prejudices against Darcy, all formed on a comment that she overheard and took out of context. Not that Darcy was innocent either- he had his own share of faults, but I had never really considered his point of view before, and I found that I had a great deal more sympathy for him this time than I had in the past. He totally put himself out there for her and she stomped on him quite horribly. It reminded me just how easily we can prove our own opinions (justified or not) when we are determined to believe something.

I also found it much more difficult to feel any empathy for Jane, who when I consider it, really didn't act like a woman in love. She certainly was intelligent enough to recognize that Bingley would be a good match, and I believe that the attraction was real, but if I've learned anything in life, it's that you can't expect anyone else to know what you want or how you feel if you don't go after it. I'm not sure if Jane could have won either way- had she come on too strongly, she could have been   rejected for being improper and wanton, and she still wouldn't have gotten what she wanted.

There were no great surprises in Lydia and Kitty, though I did find myself wondering how much improved Kitty was, and how her story ended. Most likely, one of her sisters introduced her to the "right" sort of gentleman, and she probably settled down and lived a quiet and ordinary life.

And what of Mary? Poor Mary. Stuck in the middle, she wasn't really connected to either group of sisters. Elizabeth and Jane were close in age and always together. Lydia and Kitty were also chummy, and that left Mary with what? Not much really, and that probably didn't change. I doubt if any of her married sisters particularly wanted her around. (I wouldn't have) I always thought she would have been the perfect match for Mr. Collins- they certainly deserved each other, but maybe there were deeper reasons that nobody seemed interested in finding her a match.

In the end, I very much enjoyed re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and it has inspired me to revisit other classics that I studied in university and see how my readings of them will change. Now my question to all of you:

What book(s) did you read in school that you'd like to re-read at your current stage of life (whatever that might be) and how do you think your reading will change?