As I have said before in this blog, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. Pride and Prejudice is among my all time favorite classics. In fact, reading P & P is a yearly ritual for me. Each time I read it, I never fail to find more things to appreciate about the book as well as Austen's writing.
Initially I used to be biased towards P & P as the pinnacle of Jane Austen's writing skills. I had read and enjoyed her other books too - but did not think them to be quite in the same league as P & P. In fact, at first read, I thought Emma was downright annoying - what a pesky, self-satisfied, meddler heroine!
So, when I got Emma as a gift a couple of years ago from a fellow Austen-loving friend, I was disappointed. Why Emma of all the possible books? The book got relegated to one of my book cases, to enliven the learned look of the room, but for nothing much else. Then, on one of those lazy days when I had nothing better to read, I pulled out the book.
What a revelation! I could not believe that I had ever despised the book. I don't remember the specifics of my attraction now but I do remember being completely drawn to the book. At the end of that mesmerizing session, Emma was slotted into the category of books I will definitely read again.
This year, during one of the meetings with the Austen-loving friend, our conversation veered towards books and more specifically, Jane Austen. The friend described a period at grad school when she got so hooked onto Jane Austen that for about a week she completely abandoned her research work while she devoured all the books one after the other - only stopping when she had exhausted the entire Austen supply her library had to offer. I was amused at this story but not surprised. I knew exactly what she meant when she concluded, "That's how it is with Jane Austen's books. Each time you read them, you discover something new."
Last weekend, when I was in the library, I recalled the conversation. I walked over to the section with Jane Austen novels and picked out Persuasion - its been a while since I read it last. And once I got back home, I started the process of enjoying the book. It is uncanny as to just how many of the observations that Austen makes are still so relevant to today's world. And just how does she manage to say everything so well? I dwelt on the conversations and the characterisations, savoring it all slowly.
Last night, I still had a few more chapters to go and it was already past my bedtime. Disregarding a) I have read this book before b) It would most certainly be the wee hours of the morning by the time I am done if I wanted to finish reading it and c) I had to go to work the next day, I happily read on till I reached the last page. And contented, I fell asleep.
Today has been on the bleary-eyed side consequently. Nevertheless, in the evening, I returned Persuasion to the library and picked up my next Austen fix: Sense and Sensibility.
To my sorrow, Jane Austen is not around to write new books to delight her fans. But in a way, she has left an inexhaustible supply of reading material by giving so many layers to her books. Each time you read it again, a brand new dimension is revealed. That kind of reading is fun too!