It takes me about half a book of Austen before I start enjoying it. That first half is always such a struggle. I’m constantly looking at the page numbers and monitoring whether I’m a tenth through, a fifth through, a third through…
And then, just when I’m thinking I can’t possibly go on, something takes over. I am connected to each of the characters, I understand what drives them, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I wasn’t particularly drawn to Emma herself – she is the classic 19th century English woman, and somewhat annoying with her matchmaking – but the characters who surround her are brilliant. It always amazes me how I can read about people from the early 1800s and can immediately think of someone I know who has the exact same characteristics. Technology has changed so much over time… but it hasn’t done anything to change human nature.
I found Miss Bates particularly entertaining. She talks and talks and talks and talks. Austen shows this by sharing dialogue (which is much more like monologue) of Miss Bates as a continuous stream of words, just as she would have said it. It’s tedious for the reader to get through and makes us feel the pain of those around her in the story.
I’ve taken a photo of a scene where Miss Bates speaks (see below). I laughed out loud when I saw how Austen presented this speech: no dialogue tags (said, whispered, exclaimed etc.), no actions, and absolutely no paragraph breaks. Just continuous chatter that carries on for more than two pages at a time and says what could have been said in just a few lines. And don’t we all know someone like that!?
When I first started this 100 book challenge, dialogue like this in a story would have driven me crazy. I’m someone who likes to write short, sharp, easy to read stories, and Austen is pretty much my polar opposite. But over time I’ve learnt to appreciate the different styles and enjoy the impact of the techniques used.
Now that I’m thirty books in, the remaining seventy seem much less daunting. And I only have one more Austen to go…!
In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.Follow @jessieansons