I can’t remember when I first became aware of Jane Austen’s work--probably back when I was in elementary school and read every book I could get my hands on (I was one of those kids who always checked out the maximum number of books allowed, then devoured them as quickly as I could). My enjoyment of her stories extends to the various movie and TV versions. Some I enjoy more than others, but I can’t think of one that isn’t worth watching. It’s always a pleasure to “spend time” in Regency England!
Despite the fact that I own--and have watched many times--both the A&E and BBC versions of Pride and Prejudice on DVD, it’s probably been close to 20 years since I actually read the book. I’d been considering reading it again (before I bought the new movie version on DVD), when I noticed that the local library was starting a reading group--and the first book to be read was Pride and Prejudice. Since I’d been looking for something that would get me away from my computer and around other people every so often, I signed up, dug out my copy of P&P and started reading.
Don’t ask me how, but I’d forgotten what a fantastic writer Jane Austen was. The DVDs are good, but there’s so much in the book that simply cannot make it into a film version. I soon found myself enmeshed in Lizzie Bennett’s’ world, loving every moment of it. It was hard to putting the book down, and I was sorry it was over when I’d finished reading it.
I can’t think of higher praise for a book than that!
The reading group discussion was fun, and it was interesting to hear what the others had to say about the book. I was surprised that several of them had never read Austen’s work--even more so that several didn’t finish because they couldn’t get into it (that shouldn’t have surprised me--I know everyone’s tastes are different--maybe my enthusiasm got in the way of my brain :-) ).
The one thing that stood out, however, was how many of us thought the book showed how little human nature has changed. IMO, that--along with Austen’s writing style and voice--helps explain why her work remains “readable" and relevant (anyone read Emma and watch the movie Clueless?).
What I got out of this experience, besides the pleasure of an enjoyable read and a lively book discussion, was that as a writer of historical romances I need to keep that in mind. Settings and situations may change, but human nature essentially remains the same. To keep a story set in the 12th century relevant to present-day readers, I need to show that my characters are real people with recognizable flaws and strengths--they just happen to live in a different time.
For me, that’s one of the neatest things about reading and writing.
I’ve been lax lately about reading classic romances as well as newly-published ones (let’s face it, there are a lot of good books coming out every week!), but that’s about to change. At the bookstore yesterday, along with Kerrelyn Sparks’ Vamps and the City and Gaelen Foley’s His Wicked Kiss, I picked up a copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Three yummy books to choose from . . . I’d better be good, maybe drag out my timer and sit myself down at the computer asap. Otherwise I won’t get anything done on my own work!