When I think of Jane Austen, I think of my grandparent's living room. When I was a kid we used to spend almost every Saturday night at my grandparent's house. My mother, stepfather and grandparents would sit at the kitchen table and play cards while I hung out in the living room, watching movies and reading books.
One night I ran out of books, ran out of movies and -- trust me when I say -- there was nothing on television. Tucked away in the corner of their living room was a wardrobe. It wasn't quite a Narnia-style wardrobe (those were upstairs), but it was still a fascinating thing. I couldn't tell you what, if anything, was hanging on the right side, but the left side of the wardrobe was shelved and home to many old hardcover books. It was through that wardrobe that I discovered old classic girls' series like The Campfire Girls. It was also where I discovered Jane Austen.
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I can still remember what it looked like. It was a robin's egg blue hardcover. It was a bit smaller than most hardcover books you see today. The spine was simply stamped Pride and Prejudice. I don't know why on earth I picked that out of all the books on the shelf, but I did. I flipped through it and found beautifully drawn illustrations scattered through the pages. I decided if the pictures were that nice it couldn't be that bad, and with that, I was drawn into the world of Jane Austen.
I was ten. Maybe eleven.
Surprisingly, I didn't rush out and read all of Jane's other books. I read them slowly over the years. I still have not read Northanger Abbey. It's the last of Austen's big novels, and I've put off reading it because once I do, that it will it. There will be no more new Jane to discover.
I was thrilled when I found that BlogHer Book Club would be playing host to a discussion about William Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. Yes, because it was Jane, but also because it was a memoir. Deresiewicz dives into literary critique now and then (he's a professor -- I don't think he can really help himself) but it's really a book about how Jane helped him grow up. My memories of Jane are so tied to growing up myself that I can't but help feel a certain kinship with the author, and I hope that you will, too.
Over the next four weeks, we'll be posting community reviews and exclusive content from Bill Deresiewicz and the editing team at Penguin Classics. I hope that you enjoy our month of A Jane Austen Education.
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