It started out as simple recreational reading when I was snowbound for a week in rural Saskatchewan. But Pride and Prejudice proved to be the gateway book to more and more Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and, although Fanny Price exasperated me almost beyond all endurance, even Mansfield Park followed. Yet I needed more. I explored her Juvenilia, letters, biographies, the spin-offs, cookbooks, literary criticisms. If it had Jane Austen in the title, I tried it.
Then there were the DVDs. Lost in Austen.Austenland. Documentaries of Jane’s life. Clueless and Bridget Jones’ Diary. The BBC adaptations. After the 47th time watching Colin Firth in his wet shirt, I knew I had to do something. I needed a larger TV.
Jane Austen makes it so easy to become addicted. For me, one of those ways is she wrote characters that we can relate to even 200 years later, either someone we know or on a more personal level. Elizabeth Bennett’s first impression of Mr. Darcy was not good, not good at all. My impression of Jack after our first date was not good either, and if I hadn’t believed in second chances, that would’ve been our only date and we would not be celebrating 38 years of marriage later this month. I like to think Elizabeth and Darcy had at least that many years together.
When I read Sense and Sensibility, my heart weeps for Marianne Dashwood because I too have a “Willoughby” in my pre-Jack past. I may not have made myself ill to the point of death, but I asked myself the same questions Marianne did – “If I could but know his heart, everything would become easy.”
Even though you may not personally relate to one of Jane Austen’s characters, who here doesn’t know a modern-day Sir Walter Elliott, a Lady Bertram, a General Tilney. Or an Emma, someone who knows what’s best for other people and you just want to shake her or him and say “leave them alone, let them live their own lives”. Yes, we can all relate to the characters with whom Jane Austen populates her writings. And that makes us susceptible to becoming a Jane Austen addict.
My name is Mary. I’m a Jane Austen addict and I intend to remain a Jane Austen addict.