Ode to Jane Austen – Celebrating 200 years of Pride and Prejudice

Gallery

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter One. So begins Jane Austen’s brilliant novel, perfectly cast, with … Continue reading

Rate this:

I read when books call out to me….

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Image via Wikipedia

I am so  obsessed with books, that the smell of  a fresh story, new characters and the beckoning of brilliant story telling makes me want to escape into the pages of a good book any time of the day. I thought I should re-create my book list with posts instead of  a page, where  I could talk endlessly about the books I love, the stories I carry with me and the surprises that lie in store for me, every time I open a new book.  I often think of Meg Ryan’s character in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and the really lovely book store she owned. That’s  just my kind of place. Oh and by the way, this really cute image of a ‘stack of books’ is courtesy of www. ahls.us  via google images. I thought I should throw that in. Do you like it?  Here we go then….

1st edition photo courtesy: http://www.perioddramas.com….

Please forgive my rambling….

The very first time I opened Pride and Prejudice, and inhaled the pages as I do most books to get a feeling for the story, I felt an elation that is inexplicable even today. Have you ever had such a reaction to a book? Yes! I sniff my books, tis’ a sign of  how much I love them, but that’s beside the point. I have loved Jane Austen forever, when Pride and Prejudice fell into my hands it was a love affair from the start. Each word, each character, the brilliant wit and humor( because you know she (Austen) was laughing at society) and the typical inclusion of an overwhelming, over bearing matriarch whom we have all known at some point in our lives makes it such a ‘real’ book that you never want to be apart from it for too long.

How and I say how are you not attracted to the proud, wealthy and extremely unlikable Darcy? and how do you not care so much that Bingly and Jane make it all the way to the end, in-spite of all the setbacks? how does Bingly ever forgive that infuriating man/friend Darcy who creates havoc in the Bennet family, first by keeping Bingly away from the gorgeous Jane , then by angering the lovely Lizzie with his brutally honest critique, and finally redeeming himself by saving Lydia’s reputation because of his love  for Lizzie. Keep up if you can…

I was at first quite taken by Wickham for I was entirely convinced that Darcy had wronged him in the most terrible way, but then I met Georgiana and loved her instantly, I saw how much she loved her brother and vice versa, so I soon changed my opinion of Wickham as I discovered his nasty ways. I journeyed along with Lizzie, wrongfully convicting Darcy of  pride and snobbery; I most identified with Lizzie you see – strong willed, moderate, kind, most sensible and not to be trifled with. I loved Mr Bennet as I would my father, and was appalled at Mrs Bennet, but felt sorry for her because 19th century society was very unkind to a family with no boys, so many unmarried girls and not a lot of wealth. I thought Lydia was silly but then one sister had to be immature and frivolous. I liked the rest and admired the creation of Jane the most, because she was the epitome of goodness. I escaped into the pages of this book like a fish that needed water. I fell in love with the idea of Pemberly, imagined the gardens, the great hallways and living there. I saw Pemberly through Lizzie’s eyes and it was magnificent. Netherfield was less pretentious but it contained the unpleasantly petty Caroline and Louisa Bingly who were clearly created to be disliked (and you must admit, they are in all our lives). Unless you are one of those rare beings that enjoy a little bit of snippiness. I cheered when Lizzie first rejected Darcy because no one really needs to hear that about their family even if it is true. Oh and I loved the Bennet house, I wanted to be a part of it. I want that library… I wish the book could have gone on and on, but it had to end. To have Darcy express his love again, a completely changed man, however misguided his first notions were, was the climax I was expecting and Austen did not disappoint me even once. I love, love, love this book. I will read it for the millionth or zillionth time one of these days and each time, I expect to discover something new between the lines and within the characters, so I can’t wait.

I had no idea I would be completely spellbound by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Second only toGabriel Garcia Marquez whom I absolutely love, Zafon is a  brilliant story-teller and I am jolly glad they translated two such well written books into English so we would all be exposed to this talent. I wish I could actually read the books in Spanish. I will be adding to this , by reviewing his brilliant ‘ The Shadow Of The Wind,’ however, I wanted to talk about ‘The Angels’ Game’ whilst it is still fresh in my mind. I found myself inexplicably drawn to Zafon’s rather gothic portrayal of  this destitute  character who deals with some very adult issues at a very young age, all the while pursuing a dream as a writer, an unrecognized one, but still a wonderful talent appreciated only by real book lovers until he is made an offer he just cannot refuse. Then begins the real story. As with the previous book, there is a slow build up as it delves into the dark and dangerous quarters of Barcelona and if you can bear with the pace, by the middle of the book, you are utterly hooked and will not want to put it down. This is Barcelona in all its glory; thrown into the mix is this character who is torn apart by a lost love,  and seems to have made  the perfect deal with the devil, I don’t really know myself – maybe it is god who is actually testing him. It questions faith, it makes you think vampires and no! I am not talking sweet-smelling, sexy Twilight type non human eating vampires. It is scary, tense and beautiful all at the same time. The author mentions  Gaudi and ‘La Sagrada Familia’  as he paints beautiful visuals of Barcelona’s most ancient buildings. When David moves into his new home and makes certain discoveries, the writer weaves a certain madness into the story. It will sometimes border on the edge of a roller coaster ride, in the end it will all make sense, or not – depending on how you see it. Good luck! I hope you like it as much as I did.

Oh my gosh, so moving on to my next top pick… I have to tell you…. I read “the” most interesting book recently that made me think non-stop about culture, tradition and mythology. This book is called ‘The Palace of Illusions.’  Truly fascinating and devastatingly beautiful, at the same time achingly poignant; I could not put the book down until I was done. I misunderstood several of the characters as they were based upon a familiar Indian epic. I learned to look at it traditionally – i.e what was expected of the culture rather than what was not – have I confused you further? sorry about that. If you are not familiar with the legendary( Indian epic) ‘Mahabharat’ then it is a must! but if you are not in the mood for a long read, with names that seem a little complicated, that’s okay, you will without a doubt enjoy this book for its message, and the light it sheds on the tragedy of duty bound by tradition, instead of the strength of  love that could have, (perhaps)changed circumstances. The  author weaves her magic quite brilliantly when she juxtaposes the idea that one’s destiny cannot be changed no matter what.

‘Beneath The Marble Sky” By John Shors: Incredible first novel about the creation of one of the natural wonders of our world – The Taj Mahal. It’s  Shah Jahn’s dedication to his one true love, his wife Arjumand( Mumtaz). I have to say I did not expect such an intense weaving of characters, but Shors’ introduction to life as a woman in such a conservative and restricted society was an eye opener. Women were meant to be seen and not heard, in Shah Jahn’s palace however, his wife and eldest daughter are his vessels of wisdom. There is violence and passionate love, there is a story woven of two lost souls that find each other – one royal, one commoner. There is arrogance, fear and rape in detail and yet the message is  ”love.”  It is all about the freedom to love the one you’re  meant to be with.

Sarah Dunant’s In the Company of the Courtesan brought upon such a visceral reaction that I had to put this book down for a day or two before I picked it up again. I react to words and have such a visual imagination( if I can even describe a book this way) that it is virtually impossible for me to not escape into the world of the characters, especially if the author succeeds in bringing them to life as well as Dunant does in this book. It is impossible to not be involved in this story which is repugnant at times and yet so stunningly captivating because of its setting and era; 15th century Rome. After perilously escaping the sacking of Rome, and being at the receiving end of a cruel scalping, Fiammetta, a botticelli-esque courtesan, and her dwarf slave Bucino reach Venice to begin life anew. Here Dunant weaves a tapestry of characters, as they enter and exit the lives of the two main protagonists. We begin to see how beautiful Venice is, we yearn for that first glimpse of its canal as the sun sets casting its  orange glow on the opulently decorated gondolas gliding through the waters with the most beautiful courtesans and their bored, yet wealthy customers. The language is rough in as much as it is descriptive and lucid. You learn to love this faithful dwarf for his unwavering loyalty and his sheer bravado in a climate that is extremely dangerous to a man who is devastatingly challenged as he. I am now waiting to escape into ‘The Birth of Venus’ – Dunant’s next book. If it is nearly as good as this one, I look forward to writing to you about it.