My third Austen book (but only my second ‘official count’ for the 100 book challenge) was Persuasion. I didn’t have high hopes, considering I found Pride and Prejudice such a struggle and I was getting very little sleep thanks to my two, albeit adorable, ratbags.
I’d bought Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion from MacLeans and knew I needed to tackle one of them. So of course I chose the latter, being the one with the fewer pages.
Finally an Austen girl I can relate to!
I had a gift voucher to spend at the local book shop and was excited to buy a few from the 100 book challenge list. The Penguin and Vintage classics were selling for $14 each so I began searching the shelves for familiar titles.
At one stage I had War and Peace in one hand and Of Mice and Men in the other. The former is a whopping 580,000 words and the latter a mere 30,000. Being part of the classics range, they were both $14. It seemed a no-brainer: War and Peace was much more value for money. Just 2.4 cents per 1000 words.
I had my 6 month old daughter in the pram, and she had started to fidget. She wanted out. I put the books down to lift her out of the pram. Baby on hip, I then decided which of the two books I would add to my collection.
I’d seen the movie a hundred times as a kid, but I don’t know if I’d ever read the book. I think I’d tried a few times (the first few pages seemed very familiar) but never made it all the way through.
Ahhh, but as I’m quickly learning with this 100 book challenge, sometimes one needs to have a bit of maturity behind them to truly appreciate what an author is trying to get across (I discovered this recently when I read To Kill a Mockingbird).
I remember having to read this book in high school as part of English class. I checked the book out from the library and struggled through the first few pages. In preparation for the exam I read the Sparknotes Study Guide and watched the movie from start to finish (the image of the rabid dog is clear in my mind).
I passed the exam without reading more than 10 pages max.
Did a bit of a premonition draw me to this book?
I began reading my 22nd book late in my pregnancy when it was starting to get real. Being my second baby, I had all the usual concerns: was spare time for me now a thing of the past? would I ever get to write or read again? how was I going to share my love between two kids? would my three-year-old son like the baby at all?
And then there was the thought that this baby could be a girl and (terror!) how would I go being a mum to a girl, when up until then, I’d always seen myself as a boy’s mum?
Granted, being a mum to girls in the 1860s would probably be just a little different to my own experience but I thought I’d give it a go. Thought I’d finally read this classic tale that so many people (everyone, apparently… please read on) seemed to know about but one that I’d never tackled before.
This book hooked me from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. When I wasn’t reading, I’d think about it all day. And when I was reading, I’d be drawn into the story, oblivious to what was going on around me. I felt guilty that I was neglecting my family!
Luckily it was all over in just 6 days. That’s almost a record for my 100 book challenge. Beaten only by Catcher in the Rye, which had a similar effect on me and took just 5 days to finish.
If it wasn’t for one small thing, I’d have given it a perfect 10 out of 10.
How did I manage to get through my childhood without reading this book?
The Secret Garden was published in 1911 and is about a spoiled little English girl (Mary), born in India but sent back to England to live with her uncle when she suddenly becomes an orphan. Mary becomes intrigued when she hears a story of a secret garden that’s been locked up for ten years, and as expected, the story follows her search and (*spoiler alert*) discovery of the garden.
The main characters drive this story and stop it from becoming cliche or predictable. There’s one boy I love (Dickon) and another boy I can’t stand (Colin), but Mary manages to find qualities in both.
You will even love the red robin – trust me