Wednesday 13 March 2013

Jane Austen

When I first read this month's meme question for the Classics Club I felt that it was almost too obvious to bother to answer.

"Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).
  1. Why? (for either answer)?
  2. Favourite and/or least favourite Austen novel?"
I love Jane Austen, always have, and probably always will (the link will take you to my earlier CC post that featured my Austen-love).

Therefore, not much else to say that would be of interest or relevant really. Short post. March meme answered!

However, over the past couple of weeks we have been close to overwhelmed by family drama's.

Each night I lay in bed trying to sleep, but found myself exhausted from endless discussions, decisions and heightened emotions. My usual recourse during times of trouble is reading. I can always count on books to keep me sane, to provide a respite from the day and to calm my mind so I can sleep well enough most nights.

But last week nothing worked.

As per usual, I had several books on the go.
I had a couple of non-fiction choices, a teen read, a meditation book and book 3 of 1Q84 to tempt me. But there was simply too much going on. I couldn't focus on any of them. The words swam in front of my eyes. Nothing sank in. Nothing could make a dent on the day's dramas.

By the third night I was beginning to feel desperate. I needed solace. I needed comfort. I needed the literary equivalent of chicken soup, sweetened tea and grandma's crocheted blanket.

I needed Jane and I needed her quick!

And not just any Jane, only Pride and Prejudice would do.

Pride and Prejudice has been my constant companion since I was 16. I've read it and watched the 1980's BBC production so many times I am almost word perfect.

From the opening lines..."It is a truth universally acknowledged..." I knew I had chosen wisely. Calm washed over me. A smile found its way to my lips and by the time my husband came to bed I was happily quoting sections out loud for his amusement and my gratification.

Jane had worked her magic on both us.

Rereading such a favourite allows me the pleasure of anticipation. I know what is coming and I revel in the set-up. Each word is so carefully placed and considered by Austen, it's a delight to see her craftmenship. Each comment and scene is arranged to perfection.

Every rereading allows me to relish the story anew.

I particularly love Darcy's letter to Lizzy in the middle of the book and how Austen uses it turn everything that has gone before on its head.

I love the fuss and bother of Elizabeth's return to Longbourn with Jane. Lydia's noisy carriage trip, the drama of the militia leaving for Brighton, Lizzy finally have the time to tell Jane of Darcy's proposal and the truth about Wickham. Lots of long sentences and paragraphs, full of hustle and bustle, until Lizzy finally finds the time to observe how Jane is really doing....and.... "Jane was not happy".

Those four short, simple words after so much kerfluffle just stopped me in my tracks.

Every time I reread P & P I see something with new eyes or something speaks to me about my own situation. "Jane was not happy" was the gut-wrenching truth from this rereading.

Knowing that a happy ending was coming Jane's way, made this truth bearable.

Like Jane, we all go through the bad times, tough times, sad times, difficult times. They do not last forever and happiness can be just around the corner if we wait and have the right disposition to grab it wholeheartedly when it eventually arrives.

Jane Austen is like my best friend, a big sister.

If Jane were alive today, I would hug her.


  1. I also thought the answer to this question was too obvious. Although I know people who have never read any Austen, I don't think I've ever met anyone who has read her works and hated them (with the possible exception of 13 year old boys reading her for a school assigment!).

  2. I love books that are old friends and can be relied upon to buck you up (or challenge you, or make you feel warm and fuzzy, or whatever the specialty of that particular pal is) when you need it. I'm glad you thought to turn to P&P when you needed it. When I saw this CC question my first thought was that the Twain quote was fabulous, though I don't feel that way about Austen.

  3. Jane has such wit and precision, such a keen eye for all the little cruelties and kindnesses that make us human... and such amazing control and craftsmanship--as you point out. I'm so glad she helped you gain perspective and laughter in your life, and I'm not at all surprised. She is wonderful, after all. (And so is Twain, but in a very different way, of course!)

  4. I'm sorry that you've been having a rough time, but glad that Jane, and more specifically P&P was there to help you through. It's the bicentennary year so appropriate for a reread anyway.... I'm hoping to get to a reread at some stage.

  5. Posting a link on my blog as I type this. Jane (and books in general) has helped many of us through rough times.


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