As Austen in August draws to a close, I think now is the best time to talk about my experience with Jane Austen. I used to have this fixed assumption: “I will fall asleep if I try reading Jane Austen.” This stems from a period in my earlier teen years where it seemed the only thing I wanted to read was Harry Potter.
I heard a lot of negative feedback about Austen’s novels. I heard they were boring. I heard they were only about women who travel from home to another place, then another place, then back home. I heard they were purely romantic. I heard nothing really happens apart from women wanting husbands and eventually getting them. While most of those assumptions are present within the novels, they are anything but boring, just as Austen herself was anything but boring.
My first Austen experience was watching the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice. I was a huge Keira Knightley fan back in 2005, so book or no book, I wanted to watch everything of hers I could. Confession: I did not read Pride and Prejudice before seeing this movie. It wasn’t until I read Atonement before seeing the movie – again starring Knightley – that I decided to always read the book first. Regardless of that history, I fell in love with the characters in the Pride and Prejudice movie. I love them so much, in fact, that I to this day fall asleep to the film every night before bed, exceptions being travel or house sitting for my parents.
A few more years went by before I actually read Pride and Prejudice. I fell in love all over again, but even more than with the film. It was the original story, the beginning of my Austen journey. Mrs. Bennet’s ridiculous nature and Lydia’s eye roll worthy moments convinced me that I needed to read the major six Austen novels, and possibly even more.
My next Austen adventure was going to England in May of 2010 for a two-week literary tour with my university. I didn’t get time to blog about this experience just yet, but know that it will be coming, so I won’t detail it much here. Long story short, I fell in love with Austen’s work by reading Pride and Prejudice, and I fell in love with Austen by going to England. I could see myself living in Bath, which is funny considering how much Austen grew to dislike it.
That fall semester, I read Sense and Sensibility as part of my British Literature II course. Honestly, I don’t recall liking it that much. After reading other reviews, I wonder if my dislike comes from having to read it on a schedule instead of reading it on my own time, because that’s been known to happen. I need to be fair and say I liked it, but it wasn’t amazing. I’ll be reading it again in the future for a better review as it wasn’t on my list for this reading event.
At last, forward about two years to the present. I had intended to read all of Austen’s novels the summer of 2010, then 2011 when that didn’t happen, and then this summer. When summer was well underway without me touching an Austen book, I saw Adam’s Austen in August read-along sign-up post. I wanted to join, but I knew myself. Committing to a month-long reading event that included reviews simply “wasn’t going to happen,” especially with school starting at the end of the month. I didn’t sign up. Weeks went by with me sometimes avoiding Adam’s blog just so I wouldn’t feel tempted. Only July 31st, about two weeks after getting rid of my old blog and starting this one, I signed up. Better on the last day than never, right?
August came and went by quickly. We’re on the last day, and I write this post with three hours until Austen in August ends. Again, better on the last day than never. In case you’ve missed anything, my reviews will be posted below. I want to thank Adam for hosting this event, and I also want to thank everyone I have “met” along the way and discussed these books with. This experience has helped me officially break away from all previous Austen assumptions and appreciate both her life and her work. It also helped me become a better blogger. While Austen is long gone, her words live on and continue to impact people of every generation. Now, instead of worrying about falling asleep while trying to read an Austen novel, I can put such thoughts aside and fall asleep to the Pride and Prejudice film at night, and sleep soundly knowing the true art and genius that is Jane Austen.