I had to read Austen for high school English, and I totally did not get it. I watched all the films: Sense and Sensibility with what’s her name and Hugh Thingo, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice mini-series, Clueless, and some other dreadful one about Something and Somethingelse, but I was still . . . clueless.
And then many years later I watched another little BBC oddity entitled “Lost in Austen” and it just clicked. The first key. This is the power of literature sans frontieres. Once you take the book off the page you open up so many possibilities. I hope you will be lucky enough to come across “Lost in Austen” yourself so I won’t even bother to review or summarise it here.
The second key that unlocked my secret garden of the first lady of early 19th Century literature was the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club”. This fictionalised book club movie really opened my eyes to why women today love Jane Austen. It gave just enough summary of the book without overdoing it, characters’ interpretations of the stories and a modern context.
The third key, the one that really got me was a comment made by the interminably irritating Merike Hardie on the Tuesday Night Book Club. The only useful comment she ever made was “I wish I’d read Austen when it was contemporary.” That hit me like a slap on the face. We are so privileged to live in a world where Jane Austen had the courage to write and guts to publish what these days seems so tame in comparison to the who we are today. It is incredible to think of life before someone put their tongue in their cheek and wrote
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife
But fortunately my daughters and I do live in that world, and I have finally managed to download Pride and Prejudice onto my new eReader. Is it true that Elizabeth sees Darcy in a wet shirt, clinging to his manly chest? I wonder how that will compare to Jacob Black and his shirt tearing antics. Can’t wait to find out . . . .