It is a truth universally acknowledged that as one approaches a milestone age, she becomes prone to reflection. This typically occurs with birthdays ending in five and zero and, dear readers, I am barreling toward a big zero. Forty. Forty. While I am not particularly afraid of that number, I am perplexed by its occurrence. Are we not twenty forever?
The answer to that, thankfully, is no. With age comes wisdom and while I would love to have the elasticity and energy of my younger self, I have never been happier to be me. I am sure even Fanny Price learned new things about herself and the world surrounding her as she passed through the decades. This leads me to the material point of this exercise.
I first read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a high school senior in my AP English class. It was 1994. We were somewhere post grunge, just coming out of our Aqua Net fog before embracing the Rachel Green shag and losing ourselves on the world wide web. I do not know how the historians view the early 1990s, but in my own reflections, I see that time as the beginning of me. How wonderful that when I was starting my journey, I discovered Jane Austen.
I did not delve too deeply into Pride and Prejudice then. We did not have lectures on Austen or the times in which she lived, she was merely a choice on a long list of appropriate titles for research papers. I cannot remember what theme I focused on, but I do remember feeling a deep connection to Elizabeth Bennet. I was one of five children with a disinterested father, embarrassing mother and a determination to control my own life.
Over the next few years I read all of Austen’s completed novels and enjoyed the Austen Renaissance that seemed to take over the world after the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries aired. I saw her heroines through the lenses of a teenager and young adult, my age no doubt playing a large part in my interpretations. How have my views on Austen and her characters changed as I have grown in years and experience? That is what we are going to find out.
This year, as I count down the months before my birthday, I am going to re-read all of Austen’s masterpieces and examine my feelings about them now, as a grown woman, versus the girl I was when I first read them. I am an Austen fan, not a scholar, and will approach this as such. It will be fun, poignant and honest and I hope you will share your thoughts as we go along. Beginning in February, we will have monthly giveaways for US subscribers and in August I will offer a birthday celebration prize for which all followers will be eligible.
I am not sure if it is brilliance or madness that has inspired this project, but whichever it is, I hope you will join me. I will post at least monthly, with some months seeing multiple posts. We will begin with the novel that will likely be the hardest—Mansfield Park. My musings might surprise you. They certainly surprised me! See you soon.