The gasps of horror are echoing in my ears. I know! And it's not like I didn't try. I read Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility (twice), Pride and Prejudice. They just left me cold, you know? Northanger Abbey was clever and all, and I identified a bit with Eleanor in S&S, but I just couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I mean, people worship this woman! There's a whole Austen culture! It is a truth universally acknowledge that her books are pure undiluted awesomesauce and anyone who disagrees is a godless heathen!
Somehow I trundled along for years, bereft of the understanding of the Austen, a little puzzled, but complacent.
And then I happened to stumble across a link to Jane Austen's letters. I'm terminally nosy - not so much with people alive right now, but absolutely with people long since dead - so I thought, well, what the heck? Might as well check them out.
It took me about five minutes to read, "I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal," and I was lost.
Something just clicked in my head, and I just got it. This woman was hilarious and sassy and smart and I wanted to have her over for tea to cackle about Mr. Next Door's antics. She had things to say, dammit, and now I wanted to hear all of them.
It was away to Gutenberg, and I plowed through all those novels I'd neglected. And this time I got it - Jane Austen's novels are so timeless not because they necessarily draw staggering conclusions or even are fantastic romances, but because of their unerringly poignant observations on human nature. All these people in her novels are people we know, doing things that we've seen. She takes a scene, dials it up to 11, and then draws arrows pointing to everyone's inconsistencies.
Well said, Ms. Austen. I'm glad that I'm finally able to appreciate you as you deserve at last.“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
What about you guys? Have you ever grown into a book?