Personally I always find it interesting to hear people’s stories of how they came to read Jane Austen’s books, so I thought I should share with you how I first came in contact with her work. I had heard of Jane Austen before, but I never really concidered reading her books (indeed, I didn’t even know what books she had written!) until November 2004. At the time I was, together with my family, on a six months trip around the world. We were at our first stop, which was Ann Arbor in Michigan. Being a family where 100% of us could be classified as book lovers we of course had to make a visit to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore (or three or four visits to be quite honest). I needed to buy a book because in a couple of days we would be leaving and taking the train, the Empire Builder, from Chicago to Seattle. A journey that would take no less than 46 hours! Obviously I would need something to read during that time! So, I was looking around for something that seemed good and came across this table where they had a whole bunch of classics on display; and Emma was one of them. I picked it up, read the back of it and thought “hm, sounds pretty good. Maybe I should give it a try”. So I bought it. A few days later on the train I was going to start reading it and I was stupid enough to begin with the introdiction! The introduction for this edition was something around 100 pages (!), but I gave up almost right away. I didn’t understand anything of what they were talking about, and I was just thinking “what is this for a lousy book?!” And away it went, back into my bag, banished from my sight… It wasn’t until two months later that I finally picked it up again. At this point we were in Fiji, out on a small beautiful island, surounded by crystal clear ocean. But… I had nothing to read! I decided to give it another go, but this time I decided I was not going to start with the introduction! After just a few pages I was hooked! I was lying on the beach, reading and reading! And of course, I loved the book!
Since then I have learnt never to read the introduction first to any classic that I am starting on! It might work for some people, but for me; I just seem to get stuck there if I try to do that.
I had now read my first Jane Austen book, and I loved it, but I wasn’t quite a devoted fan yet. Another couple of months on our journey saw us in Byron Bay, Australia, and there I picked up Pride and Prejudice at a local second hand book store. An old tattered copy, but oh what a gem! I read it in a couple of days, and that was it, now I was really convinced!
As we reached the end of that year I had bought, and read, all four of her remaning novels. I had been introduced to the film adaptations by watching the five hour long BBC mini-series from 1995 of Pride and Prejudice. By this time there was just no turning back!
Since then I have seen pretty much every film adaptation ever made of a Jane Austen book (I think there are one or two old BBC ones that I have not yet watched). I have visited Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, The Jane Austen Center in Bath. I have made myself three Regency dresses and a Spencer jacket to go along. And I have devoured a number of books about Jane and the time that she lived in. I find that the more I do, see and read, the more I want to do, see and read! Jane Austen’s world really is addictive! At least for me. But I don’t mind; it’s a wonderful thing to be addicted to in my opinion! 🙂