Friday Reads #5: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Indian Captive.

Pride and PrejudiceJaneites are nothing new. Worldwide, there are innumerable fans of Jane Austen and her works. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a true Janeite. I haven’t been to bath; don’t know everything about Jane Austen’s life; and haven’t even read all of her works — I know, bad author. But I have read a couple, including Pride and Prejudice, and I’m certainly a fan of them.

I discovered Pride and Prejudice fairly late, in my opinion. Austen wasn’t required reading at my schools, and no one I knew was a Janeite, so I kind of always assumed her books were just romance novels. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.

I no longer recall why I decided to read Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps I was on one of my “I need to read the classics” phases. But, I finally did so after moving to Virginia. And, what do you know, I loved it.

Pride and Prejudice 1995In the handful of years since then, I’ve only read the original book one more time. However, I’ve watched every filmed version I could get my hands on (the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version is the best), and I’ve read a metric butt-ton of “alternate versions”, “re-writes”, and “sequels” (I’ll just call them published fanfiction) ranging from fantastic to horrendous.

Clearly, Pride and Prejudice left its mark on me. But why?

The love story sucked me in. Let’s be honest. At first read, I’m sure there are many of us who would love to have a relationship like the one Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam have at the end of the book. Of course, on further contemplation, it completely falls apart, because us modern women would not do well with the expectations of females in the Regency era. But why consider things like facts in our fantasies?

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth BennetThen there’s the lovely, feisty, Elizabeth Bennet who defies convention to forge her own path and follow her heart. She’s learned, self-confident, and possessed of an inner beauty that shines forth so as to make her outwardly beautiful as well. She’s that girl you either love or loathe, and I love her.

And, of course, you have Jane’s — wow, that’s weird to write, better call her Miss Austen — writing style. Many people have explained it far better than I ever could, but, suffice to say, it’s amazing.

Since reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I’ve learned more about Miss Austen’s writing and life. It’s what comes from reading published fanfiction and various articles and books about her. I’ve learned about the “secret messages” hidden in her writing, and I hope to learn more when I get to Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

It’s all given me a better appreciation for Miss Austen’s works. They’ve become that much more powerful. And, Pride and Prejudice has become that much better. It’s not ‘just a romance novel’. It’s so very much more.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? What about the “published fanfiction”? Have you watched any of the video versions of it? Can you quote the opening line of the novel? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Friday Reads #1: Little Women

For the foreseeable future, Fridays here will be the Friday Reads series (to go with the hashtag). What better way to start the weekend than the suggestion of a good book? I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of reviews on the different books I’ll discuss, so I’m not going to review them. Instead I’m going to share what they mean to me. I’m starting the series with the book that I think sealed my fate as a lifelong reader: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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My mom bought me several versions of Little Women as I grew up. I remember owning five different versions, three of which were quite literally read to death. And I’m looking for a sixth, fancy, version to start my “favorite books” bookshelf. Leave a comment if you’d like to hear more about that.

Great Illustrated Classics, Little WomenAnyway, I remember the first version I received when I was maybe 6. It was part of the Great Illustrated Classics series. Hardcover, illustrated, and abridged with large type. I thought the illustrations were so pretty. They were black line, like a coloring book, and I so wanted to color them all in, but I couldn’t bring myself to “deface” a book like that, even then.

Some time later, when my first version was looking a bit worse for wear from reading it so much, I received an unabridged paperback version. I can remember the bright yellow back cover, even now, although the front cover details are lost to me. It was illustrated as well, in a more elegant style. I specifically remember there being a fabulous stylized illustration of Meg in her borrowed ball gown with Laurie staring on disapprovingly. It was captioned with: “Don’t you like me so?” asked Meg. “No, I don’t,” came the blunt reply. 

This second version was roughly the same physical size as my first version, although perhaps a bit thicker. It might have even been a little smaller along the height and width. I didn’t understand why. Shouldn’t it be much bigger if it was unabridged? Then I opened it. The text was tiny! It didn’t matter, though. I think I finished reading it in a couple days. And I didn’t stop. Over the next few years, I read it so many times it fell apart.

It was while I owned this second version that my mom took me to see the play version. It’s the first play I remember seeing. Generally when we went to the theater it was for some type of dance (ballet, river dance, etc) or some other type of performance altogether, like STOMP! It was simple, the only set changes were during intermission, and our seats weren’t the best in the world, but I remember being rather young, and, seeing as I don’t have many other memories of that time period, it clearly meant a lot.

I bought myself my third version of the book. An inexpensive paperback, as I fully expected to read it to death as well. But before I could, eBooks became a thing. So I bought myself an eBook version. And I’ve read it a few times as well. Thankfully, the digital version won’t fall apart.

In the final days of my mom’s battle against cancer, she was somewhat coherent, but couldn’t really hold a conversation. I assume it must have been horrible for her to be stuck with no form of entertainment. Out of a loss of what to do, I decided to read to her, as she had done for me so often as a child. I chose Little Women.

It wasn’t her favorite book. I honestly don’t know what her favorite book was. But it was comforting, and I hoped it would remind her of good times we’d shared. Of all the times we’d watched the different movie versions together. It may not have been the best decision, though, as I find the book rather difficult to read now. I haven’t read it since she died in 2013. It’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without reading it.

But hopefully soon I’ll find the strength to read it again and remember all the wonderful memories associated with it. Regardless, it’s a very important book to me. So much so that I even reference it in my own upcoming book The Most Special Chosen.

Click to check out the Little Women Graphic Novel ProjectI also recently discovered a Little Women graphic novel project that has some amazing artwork. I hope the artist continues it, as currently, only the first 7 chapters have been done. Go take a look and see what you think of it.

Have you ever read Little Women? Have you watched any of the movie versions? Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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