Friday, April 15, 2011

Jane Austen and Me

I started trying to read Jane Austen novels when I was about 16. I had been reading 19th century novels for years and tended to prefer them. ("Teen" lit in the 80s tended to be melodramatic or full of lessons or both. Go Ask Alice, for example, which I read but felt somewhat dirty for doing so.) I simply could not make myself read more than a few pages of Pride and Prejudice, however.

(I have written previously of my problem with reading Jane Austen while trying to read Persuasion.)

Last spring, I thought it might be fun to try watching a Jane Austen movie to see if I could get into the story that way. My mama had recently purchased Sense and Sensibility, and I thought it was a nice place to start.

It took us a while to get into it, what with the unfamiliar language and the strangeness of the customs (turning the female family members out because the father dies? ridiculous!), but once we got past that the movie was wonderful. Hugh Grant was charming again (it's been a LONG time since I thought that). Hugh Laurie wasn't surly. Alan Rickman was wonderful, as always (and for once he wasn't the bad guy!!!).

We usually enjoy comedies. We like big time romantic comedies with all the stereotypes and big laughs and happy endings. I did not expect to be so impressed with a drama. And I did not expect the drama to be funny. I even wanted to watch it over again immediately (although we didn't).

I still could not bring myself to actually read a Jane Austen book, however. It was not until I got a Nook (Barnes & Noble's ereader) for my birthday and Pride and Prejudice was already loaded on it that I decided to buckle down and try again. I posted about my goal on Facebook, and continued to bring people updates. There was quite a bit of discussion about my finally getting around to reading it.

The most memorable comment was that I had finally reached an age where if I don't want to read something, I don't have to read it. I think my friend was quite right, although I trudged on. (Of course, I read something similar in The Happiness Project, but the author also concedes that challenging ourselves is also a path to happiness. So I don't have to read everything I don't want to read, but sometimes it's a good thing to read something I'd rather not. I think.)

It took me several weeks to finish P&P, which is much longer than I'm used to taking for 1 book. By the end, I still was not sure I even liked the book. Once I let it rest on my mind for a few days, I started to realize that I did like the plot and the pacing was slow but it allowed me to savor the story. I do wish I had realized that my edition had endnotes before I was halfway through, though. It would have saved a lot of confusion.

Last week, I thought my mama and I could watch Pride and Prejudice the movie (the one with Keira Knightley, not Colin Firth). I like Keira Knightley, so I was surprised that I did not really care for the movie. It was difficult to follow, especially since things were left out. I did like the actress playing Jane very much.

The upside is that we watched Sense ans Sensibility again and enjoyed it just as much, if not more. I did cry at the end. So sweet. I just love the look on Hugh's face toward the end. (I did wonder if Hugh Laurie was bored, since he had so little to do.)

I still do not consider myself a Jane Austen person. I am considering reading Sense and Sensibility though.

Are you an Austenite? Which book is your favorite?

1 comment:

Cheri said...

I've never read a single Austen book. Your review doesn't leave me wanting to either! I was a Bronte girl in College!