I recently read this Washington Post article about written by Emma Straub about people who decided to start reading Jane Austen at a time that perhaps took a little too long to get to.
As everyone knows, Jane Austen turns a whopping 200 years old this year and has been influencing pop culture and people’s lives for generations. If you haven’t read a novel by her, you probably either encountered the numerous Pride and Prejudice movie remakes or even Clueless, which is based on Austen’s Emma. Let’s not forget the loosely based Bridget Jones’s Diary.
While this isn’t probably historically accurate, but Jane Austen is the creator of the original Romantic Comedy. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy hate each other. They’re both arrogant and stubborn and neither of them wanted to give in to the other. However, behind all of that was love and isn’t that what every single romcom is based on?
But I’m not here to talk about romance and its existence in Jane Austen novels. No, I’m here to talk about the romance every single reader has had with Jane Austen since her books became famous (posthumously, I might add).
Emma Straub writes:
There are a thousand reasons not to read a book at any particular moment, and sometimes those moments accumulate to decades, and you wonder, “Am I too late? Am I just A Person Who Has Never Read ‘Moby Dick’?”
If you’ve never read Jane Austen, I’m going to tell you right now that it’s ok! Jane Austen as well as many of the classic novels aren’t books people reach for unless you’re a literary student or you’re working on your PhD in classic literature or you’re on a beach trip and you’re really, really bored. It’s one of those books that hangs out on your shelf and every year you say to yourself “this will be the year I read Jane Austen,” and it doesn’t happen. I totally get it! I’ve been trying to read Anna Karenina for years, but I just can’t get past the whole harvesting wheat and the way grass looks.
But if you have read Jane Austen, when did you first fall in love with her?
I remember being a fan of the Pride and Prejudice movies for years. My mom would watch the BBC version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth on repeat rewinding specific scenes and hearing those quotes read over and over again. I even planned a pilgrimage to England and find that lake Mr. Darcy jumps into in his 19th century underwear (it was a lot of underwear).
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I decided to pick up the book and read it. Perhaps that’s still young, but I could imagine those 19-year-old comparative literature majors scoffing at me for starting on a classic at such an old age. They probably would also scoff that I was reading Jane Austen.
I tried many years before, but I was always thrown off by the number of Bennett sisters and the number of family in Bingley’s family. You also have to give the book its age and language. 19th century literature doesn’t read like 21st century literature. It made sense in the era, but when you can express feelings in 140 characters, it gets a little tough.
But I persevered. I read through the entire thing and felt an overwhelming sense of happiness for doing it. And I knew I read something extraordinary.
Yeah it helped that I already knew the plot, but you never get the voice of an author in a movie and you never truly understand interactions with characters until you read it. From that moment on, I knew I was hooked. Like many of the male characters in a Jane Austen novel, I fell in love with her the moment I saw her.
It still rings true today! I’ve read only two of her novels, but I’m completely obsessed. 200 years old and the woman is still breaking hearts and taking names. I will probably end up reading Jane Austen the rest of my life and I’ll take my time doing it.
So, tell me, when did you first fall in love with Jane Austen?