Well, I finally did it. I broke the vow that I made, aged eight, never to read Austen again. I found Emma on the shelves of my school library. Little Me was thoroughly enchanted by the blurb and decided that it was just the kind of novel I wanted to read. Lets be honest, Adult Me would have acted in exactly the same way. However, Little Me started to struggle with the novel and really wanted to stop reading… except her teacher was a huge Austen fan and wouldn’t let her stop. Little Me got the end of Emma, paying no attention to what she read by the end and swore to never out herself through that again!
When I saw that as part of my Adaptation Studies course, I had to read Pride and Prejudice I was rather split, it has to be said. Part of me was actually quite happy. I had an aversion to Austen but I also knew that a lot of the aspects would be very much to my taste, from plot to focus on social interactions in a historical context. I’d wanted an excuse to give her another go for years but the remaining part of Little Me was trembling at the thought.
Anyway, I sat down and read the novel. I got to the end. I managed to follow the plot to the end. I didn’t skip masses of pages (that’s harder on a kindle). It was a success.
I can see why I struggled with Austen when I was younger. Part of me really enjoyed the novel and then part of me wanted it to end with some promptness. Events were drawn out. Characters acted in ways that made me want to knock their heads together. In fact, when I think about it, I’m not sure that there was one truly likable character in that novel, except perhaps Jane.
When one moves beyond what was quite a difficult style at times, the plot itself is actually quite enjoyable. It’s full of themes that still ring very true today from the different kinds of love to the varying forms of duty. The ways in which the characters act, while perhaps not driven by kindness, are understandable and make sense within a modern context. Perhaps some aspects of the novel are not so relevant now, or to the general non-upper class reader, but they are aspects that we can still associate with.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be watching various films, and reading texts, that are in some way linked to Pride and Prejudice, some being direct adaptations. I have to say that I’m actually quite interested. While I enjoyed the novel in some senses, I am quite eager to see the story carried into a different format and freed of the somewhat clunky writing that didn’t quite fit in with my own personal tastes.
So, after many years, I have conquered Austen. Still not planning on giving Emma another go any time soon 😉