Rediscovering Jane

I have a confession to make. 

When I was seventeen years old, I had to read classic literature novel and write a research paper on it. Despite being an aspiring author myself, I had no desire to read an old work and try to break down confusing-and almost foreign-like language.

With despair that only my over-dramatic teenage self could produce, I selected Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. I dived in. I struggled. I hated the words. What were these characters even talking about? I felt like I needed a codebook to decipher them. I was bored. I tried to skip ahead to see if I could figure this out without reading it. I bought notes from a bookstore and wrote my paper from those. As you can imagine, this did not end well. I received a C- for my spare efforts.

Flash forward to the year Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam stared in Emma. From the first trailer, I was hooked with beautiful Gwyneth, her regency clothing, the shot of her doing archery. I don’t know why, but I HAD to see this movie. So I did. And I loved it-and her romance with Mr. Knightly. Swoon.

But did this inspire me to go on a reading binge of all of Jane’s works? No. 

So why have I recently discovered Jane? What made me dive in after all these years?

All it took was reading Austenland, by Shannon Hale. Okay. Not reading. Listening. I got the audiobook and found myself absolutely delighted by the story. And the language. It was magic, this romantic, comedic romp into Jane Austen’s world. I didn’t want it to end, and now that it has, I know I will always listen-again and again-to Jane and Henry.

Now I was ready to dive into Jane with new eyes. What was it about these books that have kept them so beloved for hundreds of years? What makes Jane Austen fans so passionate about her work?

As I’ve started Pride & Prejudice, I now understand why.

Jane Austen is such a brilliant writer my breath is taken away. Her sentences are beautiful. Her characters have depth. Flaws. Things that drive you crazy. The women are strong, much like the characters in my own novels. They are educated and smart and not always content to fit into society’s norms. She focuses on the people and their actions. While we don’t get a picture of the room they are in or the clothing they are wearing, it doesn’t matter. We are spellbound by them, and that is what makes the writing so powerful.

I think it’s safe to say I’ll be going through her works one by one and relishing every moment I have with such genius. I know I’ll be revisiting them again and again.

I’m glad I’ve come back to you, Jane Austen. It’s been far too long. But I had to grow up to appreciate you.

PS-I also hear there is a Colin Firth BBC adaption that I might just need to indulge in to make my experience complete. After all, you all know I love my research too. 😉 

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