For this week’s Throwback Thursday, I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach. First of all, I want to turn our attention to my favorite female author in honor of International Women’s Day passing just a few days ago. My favorite female author is one that many of you will be familiar with, none other than Jane Austen. With that being the case, this is where I will change things up a little for us.
Since there is not much I can say that will necessarily be a shocker anymore in regard to a plot summary or analysis of her work, I’ll tell you the story of how I came to read Jane Austen and how reading Pride and Prejudice changed my reading habits in general. Prior to reading Jane Austen, there were very few classics I could say I enjoyed reading. There were the few that are very rarely given negative reviews by their readers, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, then there are the few that I enjoyed because they were different than the classics usually assigned to us in school, such as The Catcher in the Rye (and I know a lot of teachers assign this book, but I remember being shocked by its content and spending a lot of time giggling between pages). However, none of those books made me want to pick up another classic just for fun.
Now let’s fast forward a few years past high school. I was studying abroad in Paris when I found myself in need of another book to read on the metro. If I remember correctly, my commute from my host family’s apartment to the school I was attending took about thirty to forty-five minutes, so I had a good amount of time to kill. I was inspired by all of the reading I saw around me during those commute times, but I also knew the French tend to read differently than Americans. For lack of better words, they take it more seriously. Please take that with a grain of salt, but for the most part, they do. They go to greater strides to keep Amazon from killing all of their small bookstores and readers are more likely to pick up a more challenging book than their counterpart in the States. Long story short – I wanted to do the same.
My roommate at the time had been telling me for about a month that I needed to read Pride and Prejudice. She could not believe I had never read Jane Austen, but Pride and Prejudice was her favorite book and it is also Austen’s most famous one, so it’s the perfect one to start with. Plus, I was very likely to find it within one of the few English bookstores around Paris. Sure, I would have to pay a little more to get the English version (only available brand new), but with the healthy and semi self-inflicted pressure from the metro crowds and the encouragement from my roommate, how could I not make that small investment?
Once I picked up my copy, I could not put it down. I read it at every moment I could. Three minutes to my next stop? That’s enough time to get a page (or a few) knocked out. Walking from the metro stop to the building? I knew that walk so well I could do it with my eyes closed, so I might as well just do it with my face in a book instead. Study for my midterm? Sure, I could do that, but I could read another chapter instead. I think I read Pride and Prejudice in record speed, mostly inspired by the fact that I could relate so much to a woman from a different time and who lived in a different country. I could feel myself getting wrapped up in a love story just as much as I do while watching How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days for the 1000th time. Everything about this experience shocked me and enthralled me at the same time.
When I finished the book, I first began by crying. I was not ready to let go just yet. I watched the movie and the miniseries and I tried to get the same satisfaction as the experience of reading reading it, but we all know it’s never the same. The buildup is never quite enough and they always manage to leave out or mess up our favorite scenes from the book. So, what did I do next? I looked for other books that I thought could give me the same satisfaction – and they did. I began with Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, then eventually made my way over to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Jane Austen’s five other novels, and Little Women. I jumped over to Hard Times and then for the heck of it, moved over to Dracula (it takes place in Victorian England so I hope you’re not questioning my leap too much).
I became addicted to reading the classics and this is coming from the girl who only wanted to read Twilight, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and pretty much anything John Green even though I regretted it every single time (sorry John Green fans). All of those books were entertaining, but suddenly it occurred to me I might have outgrown them. I will always love them and appreciate the fact they were the books that got me into reading in the first place, but it was Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice that changed it all for me and turned me into the lover of classics that I am today.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that little personal story of mine. Thanks for checking out this week’s Throwback Thursday and be sure to come back for the next one!
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