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A Birthday Party for Miss Austen

If you aren’t already aware that Jane Austen was born two-hundred-and-thirty-seven years ago today, you’re obviously not as devout an Austen Addict as I am. Ordinarily I’d suggest that if this is the case you can just leave my blog, right now, but today I’m feeling generous — it is a day of celebration after all — and I realize that few people can possibly be as obsessed as I am.

I don’t know about THE world, but Jane certainly changed MY world. And clearly other people’s worlds as well. When I met new people at school this year, Jane often found her way into our conversation at some one point or another. My new acquaintance would then either nod in slight recognition of the somewhat ubiquitous name, or begin gushing about how absolutely delightful Pride and Prejudice is. The latter is what happened with one of my teachers and her daughters when we met a few months ago.

And so, in honour of this auspicious day, these lovely ladies baked a cake and we all got dressed up and had a tea party this afternoon. And let me say, I have never attended such a lovely tea party in all my life. Actually, compared with our afternoon tea, I don’t think anything I’ve ever attended or hosted could even be considered a tea party.

They took out their fancy china for the occasion and we drank from the dainty floral tea cups with our pinky fingers in the air. We put on classical music. We lit candles. We placed flowers on the table.

Tea Time!

We all dressed up — though none of us really got the period quite right. There were shawls and big, floppy hats that were more to the stylings of Anne Shirley than Elizabeth Bennet and we had a southern belle join us in a long, poufy gown. I attempted an empire waist look, placing a thin belt high on my waistline over a purple dress. Nonetheless, we all looked charming in our outfits of choice.

And then there was the food. Chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar. Lemon pie. Cucumber sandwiches. And you can’t forget the tea. And the china sugar bowl. My family, for some reason or another, doesn’t have good china or sugar bowls or fancy tea sets, so that their family has such things, and that we used them, was very exciting for me.

The Food

The Food

And then we looked at my pictures from my pilgrimages to England where I visited Miss Austen’s house in Chawton and the filming locations for Pemberley used in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We had a marvellous afternoon. And then, to finish off our day we went to Anthropologie, were I got myself a present in honour of Jane’s birthday. The belt I bought was, after all, called the Pierced Floral Corset Belt so I think it was quite fitting.

Thank you Jane, for writing some of the greatest novels ever. You’ve played a huge role in shaping who I am over the past few years since we met when I was fifteen. You’re the reason I started reading Literature. You’re partly responsible for my decision to major in English when I get to university next year. You inspired me to begin writing.You inspired two incredible, bonding-filled trips to England with my daddy. Your novels have taught me so much about life, myself and those around me. And you gave me a great opportunity to have a really fun tea party today in your honour. Happy birthday, Jane. And thanks for everything.

Did you do anything special to celebrate Jane’s birthday? Have you ever? Do share!

Some other posts wherein I gush about Jane and her novels:

My Favourite Books

P&P&ME

Fictitious Crushes

Happy Birth(and Death)day to The Bard (wherein I discuss my visit to Miss Austen’s former home in England)

My Life in Books

The Jane Austen Book Club

For the Love of Jane 

Books, Books, and More Books (But Not eBooks)

I like books. Obviously. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t talk (write) about them so much. But I’m also really picky about my books. I REFUSE to read eBooks. I hate them. They’re awful. End of discussion. The other day took this online survey about teenagers’ reading habits. It wanted to know if I read eBooks. Then it wanted to know why not. I was allowed to click as many options as I wanted. In addition to “I don’t think I would like it” and “I prefer physical books”, I selected “other” and wrote “I don’t read eBooks because doing so is heresy”. This is something I stand by. I love technology (when I know how to use it) and I, like most teenagers, spend way too much time on my iPhone and Laptop. But when it  comes to reading, I like books. Real, live, honest to goodness books.

Cartoon Credit: cartoonstock.com

If I’m not reading a book in actual book format, it just doesn’t feel like reading. I love the feeling of accomplishment every time I turn a physical page. I love being able to see how close or far I am from the end. I love being able to highlight a good line and write all over the margins. I like the way books feel. I like the way books smell. I like the way books look.

But that brings me to another point. Not only am I picky in that I won’t read a book that isn’t in book format, but I kind of judge books by their covers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather read Pride and Prejudice with an ugly cover than Wuthering Heights with a beautiful cover, any hour of the day. Heck, I’d even read P&P on my iPhone, if Wuthering Heights was my only other option. But I’d really rather a physical book, with a pretty cover. 

And obviously what I’m reading matters. A lot. Because I’m also very picky (and probably a little snobby) about what I read. Which leads me to a confession. I, lover of books, a self-professed book nerd (or so my tagline says), do not own very many books. Oh, sure, I have plenty of books. Probably more than some people. And my relatively small collection is probably made up of “more quality than quantity”. But, still. At least a have a good excuse for it. Or at least a couple of not so great excuses.

Excuse Number One: The Literarily Deprived Childhood

Cartoon Credit: The New Yorker

Whenever I complain about anything, especially about to my perfect, easy childhood, my mother always apologizes with oodles of sarcasm. “I’m an awful mother,” she’ll say. “You are/were such a deprived child.” I really did read a lot when I was a kid. I loved going to the library. In fact, one of my favourite early childhood memories involves reading picture books at the library with my daddy, surrounded by piles and piles of books. It was awesome. And my parents totally encouraged me in reading. They loved reading. Reading was a very noble and smart activity. But while I read a lot, it was quantity over quality. I read loads of very forgettable books. And I read them somewhat quickly. So my Mom didn’t want to “waste money” on “mere books” that I breezed through and would likely never read again. And, I mean, she was probably right. Most of those books probably weren’t really worth buying. (Because my mother, awfully negligent as she was, never introduced me to incredibly, awesome classics or anything such. I didn’t even read Anne of Green Gables until I was 16. It had to be recommended by a teacher — although, at least it was a teacher who’s attained like-a-mother status. That recommendation is probably why.) So then I got into this habit of not buying books. Books were to be taken out of the library — why on earth would anyone do otherwise?

But then I read Pride and Prejudice (recommended by the same teacher — obviously). And that changed everything. Other than a handful of totally random books, it was the first book I ever actually owned.  I didn’t even buy it at first and when I did, I wasn’t even the one who purchased it. I took it out of the library, as I always did. What else would I have done? But, as I talk about in this post, I didn’t really understand it. I complained about this to my father, and he did something absurd. He went to the bookstore. And he bought me– Oh God. I can’t even say this. It feels so dirty. He bought me… SparkNotes. SparkNotes, for those of you who are lucky (or smart) enough to have never heard of such an atrocity, are study guides that summarize and analyze books so that (idiotic) students don’t have to bother reading the books they’re supposed to read for school. All I said to my dad was that I wished I could be learning the book in school, so I could understand it. I’ve never condescended to use a study guide for a book we’re learning in school (even before I decided that I was “passionate” about English) and I wasn’t about to start then — especially with a book that I was reading for pleasure. Then my dad did something smart. He bought me The Annotated P&P which I’ve mentioned a few times before. I really owe a lot of my understanding of Jane’s works to that book. But I was a little bit concerned. It wasn’t like I adored the book, based on the few chapters I’d already read — far from it. How did I know I’d even like it by the end? It’s not as though I’d ever reread it or anything. It would just sit around taking up space for all eternity. Or so I thought… (By now I’ve read it at least five times. In the past two years.)

Excuse Number Two: I Screen Books Before Buying Them

So Pride and Prejudice turned out to be a good buy. And, like I said, aside from books for English class, it was one of the first books I actually owned. (Also aside from picture books when I was little, I guess.) After that, I loved owning books. I also fell in love with rereading books. But, the problem remains that I’m very picky. And very skeptical of what I will or won’t like. So, a lot of the time, I still get a new book from the library, and then only after I’ve finished reading it will I actually purchase it, to showcase on my bookshelf (which is pretty much a shrine to awesome books). Because I don’t like having books I haven’t read sitting around. It makes me nervous.  And buying a book I’ve yet to read and don’t yet know I’ll like makes me nervous too. Because books take up valuable space and it’s not as though you can just  get rid of a book you don’t like. If you bought it, it’s yours forever.

Also, books are seductive. If I don’t exercise some form of self-control, I could seriously find five books to buy every time I step into a book store. And then I’d just have a panic attack from all the unread books. I wouldn’t know where to start, so I’d start them all. All at the same time. And then my brain would explode and I’d never make any progress through any of them. And then I’d probably deal with this situation by buying even more books.

So I try to test drive books from the library and I try to only buy a books when I’ve declared it to be my new favouritest book in the whole wide world.

Excuse Number 3: Back to Judging Books by Their Covers

I don’t like having ugly books on my shelf. And even more than that, I do like having pretty books on my shelves. Returning to my first encounter with (and purchasing of) Jane Austen, I made a mistake when I bought all of Jane’s works. I was still a very amateur book buyer. I had no clue what I was doing. I had my Annotated P&P, which had a lovely cover, but the next two books I read came from the library. I already knew that Jane was the most brilliant writer of all time, so I decided I needed to buy all six of her books. This wasn’t my mistake. My mistake was going to the bookstore with Daddy, deciding I needed to buy all her books at once, and letting him help me pick. I had NO clue what I was doing. The editions we got were hideous. Some of them were paperback Modern Library editions and the rest were paperback Penguin Classics. And not nice Penguin Classics, we’re talking about the ugliest, cheapest Penguin Classics you’ve ever seen. 

My bookshelf.

And then, later in life (about a year later) I discovered pretty books. Then I discovered hardcover books. Then I discovered Clothbound Penguin Classics. Books that I would be proud to house on my sacred bookshelf. Since then my collection has been growing considerably. And then when I was in England I went kind of crazy and bought a whole ton of books — most of which I had never read before. Of course, they were mostly poetry collections, which is my exception to the screening rule. Here’s a snapshot of my bookshelf on the left. I use the word snapshot because it is a picture of a fleeting moment in time — my bookshelf is constantly being added to and reorganized. I’m very proud of it. I recently reorganized it, which was the inspiration for this post. The top shelf is mostly poetry and/or new stuff from England. The second from the top is my shrine to Jane Austen — it’s overflowing, which is pretty strange as the woman only wrote six novels… It may have something to do with my three copies of Pride and Prejudice… The third from the top is mostly classics. The bottom shelf is mostly stuff I’ve read for school.

So, what’s on your bookshelf? A lot of so-so books? A few really great books? A lot of really great books? And where do you stand on eBooks? Am I the only one who refuses to move into the 21st century?

For the Love of Jane

I first got acquainted with Jane Austen when I was in grade ten. It changed my life. Obviously. It was also the start of a delightful little obsession. An addiction you might even say. And then I kind of got over that. I really thought I was cured. Turns out I was just in remission, ’cause the sickness is back. Will it ever be gone for good? I sure hope not.

A modern imagination of Jane. Probably more accurate (and pretty) than the other “fake” pics floating around. If you’re as ardent (crazy) a fan as me, you know what I mean. If not, google it. There is more out in Jane’s corner of the web than you would ever care to know. Photo credit: pemberley.com

With the start of the summer (during which I planned on reading lots of new books) I find myself going back to Jane. Maybe it’s because with high school ending and The Rest of My Life starting (as if), it’s nice to have something consistent and familiar to go back to. To borrow a metaphor (actually a simile, but whatever) used a lot with regards to rereading, going back to Jane is like being re-acquainted with a dear old friend. Except, while the old familiarity, shared memories and old jokes are still around, when you meet up with someone from your past, you can’t expect that they’ll be exactly the same as they were when you were close. Which is okay, because you’ve also changed. While Jane’s words have remained the same since the last time I read them (and for the past two hundred years) I’ve certainly changed, so my reading and understanding of those words has too. We (the book and I — just in case I lost anyone there) have a different relationship now. It can’t be the same as it was before, but you know what? That’s okay.

Photo credit: goodreads.com

My very first impression of Jane Austen was (appropriately) based on Pride and Prejudice. For the first several pages, that impression was not a wholly positive one. A teacher (The English Teacher) recommended I read it and I was really excited to do so. Then I did and I thought that teacher was insane for suggesting it. It was just so prim and proper and old-fashioned-y. Although, I do have to admit that I didn’t really understand it at first. That’s probably an understatement. I thought Lady Catherine De Bourgh was Mr. Collins’ wife. That was not fabricated for your amusement, I could not make such ignorance up. And in my defence, how was I supposed to know WTF a “patroness” was? Why else he would need some woman’s permission to come visit his relatives, unless they were married? It’s a good thing I switched to The Annotated Pride and Prejudice before he started courting and proposing to half the girls in Hertfordshire, all because Lady C wants him ‘settled’. Then it would have gotten really confusing. And weird. And Mr. Collins is weird enough without my misunderstanding his relationship status with Lady C.

Once I actually understood P&P (or at the very least understood what was going on in it) I fell ardently in love with it for the same reasons I had initially disliked and misunderstood it. The primness. The propriety. The old-fashioned-y-ness. It also may have had something to do with Colin Firth in a wet shirt, but you know, whatever. Anyway, as the cliche goes, high school kind of sucks, and Jane was my escape. I could float away into the world she created with her well-chosen, beautiful worlds and forget about everything else. I’d live in ravishing country estates with my new best friends Lizzy, Emma, Catherine and Marianne; I would swoon over Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney, doodling their names all over my Science notebook, in my best, most Jane Austen-y cursive. I was more “well-adjusted” by the time I got to grade eleven and twelve, finally finding my place with a steady group of friends, but until then, I had Jane. She helped me so much during that awkward year and to her and her heroines (and we can’t forget those heros) I will always be grateful.

There is NO screenshot that can possibly do justice to this moment. Also, posting pictures such as this one is half the reason I started this blog. I’m being serious.

I read P&P literally about three or four consecutive times upon first meeting it (in addition to at least as many viewings of the five and half hour movie), so since then I’ve tried (at times in vain) to stay away from it. That’s because Jane’s words have become so engrained in my mind that they’ve begun to (dare I say) lose their power to excite and instil new ideas. I thought it would be best to wait for a little to reread it, so I can take new and more profound meaning from those beautiful words and see them with fresh eyes rather than just looking at them on a page and doing little more than skimming due to my over-familiarity. Actually, keeping with the friend metaphor, it’s much like the way we can’t (and often just don’t) always judge and assess our close friends  objectively (or always notice all their merits) because we’re so used to them and all their idiosyncrasies. I’ve also been keeping carefully away from Emma because I really adore that one and wouldn’t want this to happen with that.

Now I’m re-assessing Jane with my reread of Northanger Abbey and it’s a very interesting experience. For some reason, I thought that despite my love for Catherine and Henry Tilney, I never really read this book that much, so it was immune to this phenomenon. It became my go-to for when I needed a jolt of Jane’s humour. Or was just between books and needed something to fall back on. But it now occurs to me that I’ve read the book at least three, (but potentially closer to five) times, in addition to watching the movie just as much, in the past two years since I first read it. So it’s more familiar than I thought. Kind of like a friend you like, but only hang out with a lot because you have a bunch of mutual friends, and then you’re suddenly struck by how close the two of you have gotten. It’s sort of like that. Let’s say. (It’s really not like that. I love Northanger Abbey and always have. It would have been a more appropriate simile if I had been talking about Mansfield Park — we’re only friends because it happens to be written by Jane — but that would never happen. Neither Fanny or Edmund are people who I can relate to, be entertained by, aspire to be like or swoon over.)

But despite my newfound familiarity with Northanger Abbey, and every single exchange between Catherine and Henry, I’ve changed and learned and grown since last reading it (or any novel by Jane). So there’s this weird disparity. On the one side, I feel overly familiar with the plot and dialogues and phrasing but at the same time I am continually shocked by how much I seem to have missed or misinterpreted the first few times I read it. Despite all my ardent love and admiration (as well as how many times I have read and reread each of Jane’s novels) I’m beginning to realize that I didn’t understand her works as thoroughly as I thought I originally did. Yes, Jane’s novels are set in fancy country estates, where her characters’ interactions are ruled by a very official laws of etiquette, but it turns out that this by no means implies that her novels are prim, proper or flowery. It turns out (and I say this as the biggest complement I can think to bestow) that Jane Austen was an ironic, sarcastic, satirical bitch. There are lines in Northanger that I cannot believe are written before my eyes and I wonder how they could possibly escaped me the first several times I read the book.

A lot of the new insight I’m seeing comes from my deeper understanding of and appreciation for satire and irony. I’ve (almost) always understood that you can’t take everything Jane says or all of her character’s words and actions at face value. I seem to be one of the few people who truly understands that when Jane coined the phrase “a truth universally acknowledged”, she intended for the phrase to imply that the clause following it isn’t really a cold, hard fact, people just think it’s the truth. For example, it is a truth universally acknowledged that universally acknowledged truths are true — i.e., a lot of people think that universally acknowledged truths are true, but they’re not. But, I don’t think I really understood the extent to which you really can’t trust a single word that flowed from Jane’s pen. I have made some pretty major life decisions based on lines in Northanger Abbey only to realize later that the line I was basing my life around was meant ironically. (I can’t share what those “major life decisions” are or what lines they are based on, because these decisions will seem fairly minor to you. Also, my misinterpretations and consequent decisions make me feel — and would make me look — like quite a silly, ignorant, little teenager.)

But the really interesting thing that I’ve been wondering lately is about the nature of this growth and deeper understanding. I can obviously understand Jane’s works differently now that I’ve grown and internalized the idea of irony a little more. The question is, was that learning and growth independent of Jane and her works, or was it Jane who taught me about irony and satire, and now I’m finally able to (consciously) apply it back to the works that taught it to me in the first place? It’s kind of a circular argument and it’s probably a bit of both.

Have you been rereading much lately? Are you gaining new insight or is it more of just a trip down memory lane? What’s on your summer reading list?

My Life in Books

Today’s post comes to you from Florida, where my family and I have come for some much needed relaxation before exam craziness begins. Every year around this time, we get time off from school and for the past several years we’ve been spending this time off in the sunshine state. We’ve been coming here since I was in grade 8 and now that I’ll be graduating from high school in a few months, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately.

Real Books > E Books

Today I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve changed since we started coming to Florida on this annual basis. I don’t have to say that I’ve changed a ton since I was 14, but I think what’s interesting is how I chart and measure that change. I think change is a really interesting topic, because, unlike in novels where you often see the characters changing blatantly before your eyes, in real life it’s so gradual and seemingly natural that you can only really see it retrospectively.Then, when you do introspect you’re often taken aback. “Was I really like that before?” or “How did I possibly manage to get where I am now?” are often the questions on my mind.

Even more often, I can hardly imagine life before the change which has taken place. I can hardly imagine, for example, spending this time-off at home. I can’t even recall what that was like. Another major change in my life, which I could have never imagined at the time, was reading Jane Austen’s works, starting with Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I sometimes think of my life in the context of “Before Jane” and “After Jane”. Okay, I don’t really think about my life that way, at least not in so many words, but that is essentially the big, defining change and revolutionary landmark in my life so far.

In fact, I completely track my progress as a person through the books I read. When I think back through the years since we started coming to Florida, and how much I’ve grown over the course of those years, the one thing I think about is what I was reading each year.

In grades 8 and 9, it was still Before Jane. I have very little recollection of what I read, and I certainly can’t distinguish between the two years. I know I had a pile of books from the YA section of the library selected almost solely on a “judging by the cover” basis. I definitely recall reading some of  the books in the The Clique series by the pool, but I couldn’t even tell you which books in the series they were. There was also one really good book, one of the few from my YA days which I still remember, called Pretty Face. It’s about a girl with weight and self-esteem issues, who overcomes these problems when she goes to Italy in the summer. (Please note that my brief synopsis makes it sound way more lame than it truly is.) However, after a quick google search (which informed me of this book’s title), it occurs to me that I’ve been melding about 5 books of similar theme into this one memory, which I guess goes to show the great quantity of low quality books I breezed through during this phase.

Then grade 10 hit and Jane Austen and I became very close friends. By the time April rolled around, I had just finished reading P&P for the first time. On our flight to Florida, I watched the brilliant, five-hour, twenty-three minute movie (or, you know, the first three hours of it) and it completely sealed the deal. I instantly became an ardent lover of all things Austen (except for, you know, Mansfield Park and Persuasion…) I have such lovely memories of lying on the beach re-reading and re-re-reading the best novel of all time (which is obviously P&P, you’re welcome to disagree on this point, but if you do, you’re also welcome to go find a different blog to read).

Photo credit: http://www.rainbowresource.com
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Then last year in April I was going through my Anne of Green Gables phase. Yes, I’m aware that it was quite late, and in the natural order of things L. M. Montgomery should really come before Jane Austen, but the human experience is quite a complex thing (or so my Writer’s Craft teacher keeps saying). I was reading the last of the 8 books in the series, in which the focus switches from Anne to her youngest daughter Rilla, who is by this time around 15.  It takes place during WWI and the first time I read it I thought it was the most tragic book I’d ever read. When I read the part where Rilla’s brother dies in the trenches, I was sitting at the beach, wearing a big floppy hat and sunglasses, surrounded by happy, laughing children and I had tears positively pouring down my sun-screened cheeks. After I finished reading this book, I was so distraught that I was up half the night crying. I felt as though my own brother had died (which was perhaps a little melodramatic of me) and not even the fact that Rilla’s sweetheart came back safely in the end could comfort me.

This was before I had taken my Studies in Literature class, so I hadn’t learned anything about the literary movements. I was under the deluded impression that this was such a gruesome, realistic account of that era. I now realize how highly romanticized this was and that it’s very much like fluff (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry LMM) next to the postmodern nonsense (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry Pat Barker and Barbara Kingsolver) I read now for my Literature class. The boys in the Anne books were so noble and brave and strong for going to fight in the big, manly war. And Walter got to die fighting for his country, instead of coming back from war knowing about all that “ugliness”, while Rilla’s sweetheart, Kenneth, come home completely unharmed and completely not shell-shocked. As opposed to Regeneration, in which you see how horrible and almost futile fighting in the trenches really was. To be honest, I rather liked my ignorance and innocence (sorry English teachers, who think they’ve helped me grow, but whom I believe have broken me).

Last year also marked the first year I brought a journal with me. I had just began writing, and Miami beach was where I wrote the first poem I’ve had published. That was growth I had never imagined. Publication. When I wrote that poem, the idea that it could possibly be published, and read by anyone outside my family was just unfathomable.

That’s a lot of growth for a single post. Next time I’ll post about this year’s reading material, as I’ve already written an entire essay’s worth of words. I wish I could just hand this in, instead of writing the million and a half essays I have due in just over a month.

Have you read any books that changed everything? How do you track your personal growth?

Little Women

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Unlike most of my other favourite books, Little Women was shockingly not recommended by my (very favourite) former English teacher. I actually thought about giving the real book (as opposed to the unreal book) a try after reading The Mother-Daughter Book Club, an adorable young adult series that I borrowed from my little sister. In the first book they read Little Women and in the next few they go on to read Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables. So obviously this is an awesome series for this fact alone. In fact, while my sister reads these books because (like most normal people when reading a book) she genuinely cares about the characters, I read them solely for the allusions to the books I actually read. Like, for example, one of the main characters, her mother’s obsessed with Jane Austen, so she and her brother are named Emma and Darcy after Jane’s characters. And every chapter starts with a quote from the book their book club is currently reading. Let’s just say this series is pretty awesome.

So, I began reading Little Women over the summer, after borrowing it from a friend who told me it was amazing. She was right. I love little women so, so very much. It’s just such a deliciously, delightfully light read, with lots of little pieces of gold that are so true to life.

I also really liked the nice, warm happy ending when the whole family bonding so sweetly together. I think that, especially in today’s age of technology and the constant focus on money and financial success, it it so nice and refreshing to have the emphasis placed on family and love and all those things, which, to me,  are what really matter.

Now, I know that some people aren’t so satisfied with the fact that Jo ends up with Prof. Bhaer, but personally I thought it ended just right in that respect. No, it wasn’t quite like Pride and Prejudice where I fall in love with him by the end, but it really isn’t about if love him, it’s about Jo loving him! Even in P&P, the whole reason I love Mr. Darcy is because he’s so perfect for Elizabeth. Same goes for Prof. Bhaer, I like him and I’m satisfied with Jo’s marriage to him because I think they’re right for each other.

I’m sure some people think that Jo should have gotten together with Laurie in the end, but I just don’t see that working out. When I was younger and read the abridged version (which you can read about here) I actually did think they should end up together. When Amy met up with him in Europe, while Jo was at home, I was under the impression that Jo wanted Laurie, despite her protests and that was why she was sad. I thought Amy was such an obnoxious, little brat.

However, upon reading the real thing, I realized that she really didn’t care about Laurie in that way. She genuinely wanted him to find someone else and was glad that that someone else was her sister. She and Laurie wouldn’t have made a good couple, they’re too similar, like two tornadoes, they each need someone who can ground them and is different enough to be a foil. I think they work so much better as brother- and sister-in-law.

Furthermore, by the end, I really wanted Jo and Prof. Bhaer to get together because of how desperately she finds herself wishing for his proposal. He comes  to visit the town where she lives and stays nearby for a bit, frequently coming to visit her household. On I think it’s his final day, she goes to off to the market to buy something where she hopes to bump into him — who hasn’t done such a thing? When they do meet, she’s just in agonies, wondering if maybe she had read him wrong and he really doesn’t plan on proposing at all. When he finally does, I, for one, was elated for her. It didn’t really matter how felt about him, Louisa May Alcott wrote it so effectively that I completely empathized with Jo and wished for exactly the same things she did, regardless of my own sentiments (if that make any sense…) And that, I think, is what makes effective writing.

The thing I love so much about this book is its capacity to make me both laugh and cry. I thought it was the perfect balance between reflective and (mostly) realistic, (especially in the way she addressed John and Meg’s marriage, showing that even with all their love, it wasn’t perfect, but something they had to work  at) while also keeping it light and entertaining.

To see my previous post on Little Women click here.

For a list of my other favourite books click here.

Literary-esque stuff I want for my birthday

(I’m trying to go for subtle hinting here, is it working? Click the pictures to go to the sites on which each item is sold)

Mr. Knightley is pretty much my favourite Austen hero

“Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”

“…and it is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.” Oh, that Henry!

I'll have a Darcy... MugI'll have a Darcy... Mug

Jane Austen Retro iPhone 4 Clear Case

This is the reason I’m switching to an iPhone

my other ride is a Barouche sticker

Insert witty Jane quote here

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Sure Mr. Darcy… The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks?

Story. Of. My. Life. My need-to-calm-down-and-stop-hyperventilating-over-nothing novels are NA and MP (I hated MP btw, and have been re-reading my way through it intermittently for the past year and a half)

I’m legit going to visit Pemberley (i.e. Lyme Park) this summer! Jealous much?

writers block oval sticker

I hate when that happens

will power William Shakespeare t-shirt

‘Cause, like, WILLiam Shakespeare…

road less traveled bumper sticker

So, pretty much anything from this shop on Etsy would be AWESOME.

On Finishing a Novel

I  just finished reading Adam Bede by George Eliot. It  is amazing, and officially my new favourite book — go read it, yes, I do mean right now. Except, I don’t know if it’s really in my list of favourites (and if it is, it’s lower down on the list). Because, as brilliant is it was, I’m really not sure how I feel about the ending… (no spoilers though, seriously, please go read it, now! It’s really not a very popular book and I have no idea why, it’s fantastic. Perhaps it’s been overshadowed by Middlemarch? (Which, by the by, I have not read, but I hear it isn’t even as good!))

Adam Bede

The thing is, I never really know what to do when I finish reading a book. Especially a good book… which has taken me way too long to get through. It’s normally a rather bitter-sweet affair. Normally the books I read have, if not happy, then at least satisfactory endings. They either end with a rush of happy or a rush of thought-provoking brilliance. But, the problem is, then it’s over! If I’ve been plowing through the book because it’s brilliant and a relatively “easy” read, I tend to majorly slow down as I approach the end. I start rationing chapters, carefully making sure not to exceed one per day, hoping to make it last for as long as possible. Conversely, sometimes I take ages and centuries to get through a book because while it’s still brilliant, it’s also written in fancy old (beautiful) language (making it hard to plow through) and I’m preoccupied with this little thing called school and other books which keep getting in the way. In that case, by the time I near the end, I start speeding up to see how it turns out already, making sure to read at least one chapter a day.

But then when I reach the end? What then? I never quite know what to do, how to deal with it. If it’s a warm, fuzzy, smiley ending, I feel like it’s impossible to resume my daily activities, and leave that state of warm fuzz. If it’s a brilliant, thought-provoking ending, I feel like I should sit and contemplate it’s brilliance and the thoughts it provokes. It’s a “how can lowly Data Management homework follow that?” sort of feeling.

So I’m stuck and it’s kind of awkward. I feel like  I’m supposed to sit and revel in the book’s ending, holding it to my chest and soaking in its brilliance. But I also feel like a normal person (i.e. someone other than myself) might just carry on with life as they normally would (whether “carrying on with life” consists of doing homework or having an actual life).

When I read Pride and Prejudice for the first (and second and third) time I had a rather unique (read crazy) way of dealing with the inevitable fate of reaching the end. I would read the final words, close it, hold it close to my chest enjoying the fuzziness, then open it up, go back to “a truth universally acknowledged” and repeat. I repeated about three or four times before it occurred to me that there was anything at all abnormal about this.

So what to do now? I think I’ve found the perfect solution — BLOG ABOUT IT!

Do you have any rituals upon completion of a brilliant (or far from brilliant) novel? Am I the only one who’s done four consecutive re-reads?

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