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(BTW, if you think that title was dumb, it was the best I could do)

When I was first introduced to Jane Austen, I picked Northanger Abbey.  Why?  It was the shortest and the summary on the back looked interesting.  This is what happened:  I got two pages into it and quit.  I wasn’t used to reading ‘old-fashioned’ books and I couldn’t get through it.

We had just finished watching Mansfield Park 2007 so I decided to borrow the book from the library (wrong choice!).  I didn’t understand a word of it so I gave up.  (It didn’t help that the film is nothing like the book).  After that I backed off from Austen for awhile.

A little later, I came across The Jane Austen Handbook in a little gift shop.  My mom liked Jane Austen a lot so I decided to get it and if I didn’t like it, she could have it.  I read it…and didn’t put it down for several days.  Of course, I had never read any of Jane Austen’s books so I didn’t catch all the delightful hints that the author puts in.

I worked up enough courage to try Austen again.  I bought a shamefully “lopt and cropt” version of Pride and Prejudice at…the dollar store.  It left out many things such as Jane’s visit to Netherfield and Lady Catherine coming to see Lizzy, but I enjoyed reading it.  I then set out to read the full, unabridged book.

I struggled through it for a few days and then finally found my pace and started to enjoy it.  I still had trouble understanding parts of it so I read bits of it at a time.  I finally finished it and as a reward, treated myself to Pride and Prejudice 2005.

I read Sense and Sensibility a little later on, using the same method, and then finally all of her wonderful books.  I thought to myself “There!  I’ve finished them all and I can say I have.”  But, like Lizzy with Darcy’s letter, they were soon brought out for further perusal.

I am proud to say that I can read large portions of Jane Austen’s books without stopping for a breather.  I have read all of them more than once and even got through Lady Susan (which wasn’t so bad once I got into it).

My Austen collection includes all her major novels, an abridged version of Pride and Prejudice (not the one I mentioned above), The Jane Austen Handbook, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Jane Austen: A Celebration of her Life and Works, and a ‘deluxe’ Pride and Prejudice 1995 DVD.

Were you able to dive into Austen right away, or did you have to wade in? 

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