‘What’s the best occasion when you’ve read a book?’ That’s a good question. An instant recall arose in my mind – we were having lunch in the secluded spot in our garden in our previous house that we called honeysuckle corner. Jenny, the next door neighbour returned our copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’d wanted to re-read it before seeing the movie. Anne and I had seen the film the previous evening. I liked the portrayal of Elizabeth – a spunky, spirited, country lass. I could understand Darcy being attracted.
After Jenny left we sat talking. We both thought the film’s ending, a romantic depiction of the hero striding towards the heroine smacked of Bronte rather than Austen. However, neither of us could recall how the couple finally got together in the book. So I checked. They were out walking of course. That’s what Austen’s young characters did all the time – walked and talked. Sounds a good life. Of course they had servants to run round after them.
I turned to the beginning of the book. It was a lovely warm day. I made a decision. Away with guilt! At this stage of life there was some entitlement to irresponsibility. So I poured myself a beer and settled down outside to read, neglectful of garden, computer, and correspondence. Dorothy the cat sprawled contently on a spare plastic chair alongside. If I could purr I would have been too as I delighted in the novelist’s craft, enraptured by the Bennett household, suitors arriving thick and fast. Having been in the company of a succession of gloomy novelists it was a relief to get back to a straightforward love story with a happy ending. Especially one with such crackling prose.
I’d forgotten how Austen lets the reader know how against his will Darcy is increasingly captivated by Elizabeth. The reader realises that that young lady is in for a surprise. If such a delightful being does not understand her own heart, how true that is for most of us. I went inside for a second beer. I might as well pig our completely. When I got back out I savoured the scene, bumble bees galore at the chive and borage flowers, a blackbird singing from Jenny’s TV aerial. I picked up the book again and was immediately transported to late 18th century Kent. I wonder what Jane Austen would have made of movies based on her books. They make good movies. Cinderella is a timeless myth. The fairy tale princess like Austen’s heroines will remain immortal and young like the Greek gods.