I am not famed for my allegiance to the Austen. I 'like' but am not 'bowled over by' would sum it up, but I was idly gazing at that stack of Connell Guides when it occurred to me that it would be an interesting exercise to read one in association with a book I hadn't read before, see which doors of perception might open with a few prompts from a helping hand. I am really enjoying the relaxed and accessible yet robustly critical approach taken by these little books.
It was a toss up between Paradise Lost, Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Emma and automatically hanging my head in shame at not having read any of them I settled on Emma.
Except why hang head in shame??
'There can never be anything quite like that first reading. The word-perfect, possessive devotees, who will hardly allow your appreciation unless you have read it twenty times, are apt to forget that Jane Austen wrote her books, as every author writes every book, to be read for the first time.'
I daresay the book gets better at each re-reading. Long after you have exhausted the discovery of every subtlety, the pleasure, like that of getting into clean sheets, remains ever fresh and no less keen for being familiar. But what does not remain, what can never be recaptured, is the pleasure of first following the story's unfolding, led forward by the gentle bu inexorable hand of Jane Austen. You can't let go.'
Well Monica is right on every count in my eyes.
So much enforced study and available expertise about Jane Austen out there it can be hard to come to her books out of choice and when you want to, and without incurring the incredulity of the devotees...
'You have never read Emma??
As age increases I regularly quell that rising Keatsian sense that I do still have so many books I want to read...
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
But I firmly believe too that there is a right time in my life for some of those books, and I am astonished and delighted that Emma has ambushed me now. I am not sure I would have spotted years ago what I am seeing on this first read.
I have been engrossed and interested, have had the characters all sorted out in my mind. I am watching for the little details and espying all those oh so clever little Jane Austen nuances that are so easy to miss. And I am still only on page 150, reading ever so very slowly and wanting to put the book down to digest the day's events in Hartfield, in no rush to finish it but also desperate to pick it up again.
Bookhound nips out for supplies...'I'll sort the washing' I'll say, but have actually pulled the chair up to the Aga before he's even got the car out of the gates. This at 11am, just so that I can read a few pages more.
So to everyone out there who has probably been telling me I should read Emma, I make no apology for taking so long, but thank you, you were right. More about the book eventually but I really do think Emma Woodhouse might become my favourite Jane heroine to date.
Mind you I haven't read Persuasion yet either.
Is anyone else still waiting for the Jane Austen moment to happen in their reading life??