Monday, May 13, 2013

A Jane Austen Read Through!

I don't know if "read throughs" are a thing, but "cook throughs" are, made popular by the Julie & Julia blog. Lots and lots of bloggers have cooked through various cookbooks since then; too much work for me, so don't expect that here! What I am reporting about, however, is my Jane Austen read through. I read all of her novels (not that many, but still) a couple of weeks ago. I started with Pride & Prejudice, then backtracked to Sense & Sensibility, then read the rest in the order of publication. I followed that up with Lady Susan and the unfinished Sandition. This wasn't the first time I've read her work; she's one of my favorite authors.

As I've grown older, I've valued her work for different reasons. Originally I liked the stories- they are very charming and so easy to love. I still adore the stories, but now I feel a deeper connection to them. Not because of the stories themselves, or any feeling of connection to the author, but more of a connection to the generations of women who've read them before me. When my grandmother was alive I once mentioned my fondness for Jane Austen and she said she read her work too; my mother said the same thing recently. That made me realize how many generations these books have touched- 200 years of women. Countless women have taken time out of their busy lives to stop and read these very books. I wonder at the clothing they might have been wearing, from the popular dress when they were first published to women in the last century wearing the fashions of their day, to now, the 2000's. Where were they sitting? What were they in the middle of when they stopped to read? My Great Aunt Peg, who died young- I don't know much about her, but I do know she frequently babysat my mom and aunt, and that she liked apples and reading. Did she grab an apple, find a cozy spot, and open a beloved copy of Pride & Prejudice while my mom and aunt played nearby? She never could have envisioned the way I read these books recently- on my electronic reader. What would she have thought of that, I wonder!!

I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I read these books now. It wasn't my first time reading them all, and I'm sure it won't be my last. Jane Austen endures because she is a thread that connects women through time; I hope that thread continues for many more centuries to come.

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