“She read, with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension . . .”

My mom’s sister and I are pretty close. We share a love of reading, and for many years she would take me to Borders or Barnes and Noble for my birthday and we’d buy a ton of books . . . she would recommend authors she was enjoying, and we’d fill in on classics that I had missed. On one of those trips, she bought me a paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice. I put it on my shelf, but I didn’t get around to reading it for a couple of years.

My high school is on the 4/4 system, which means that I took four classes one semester and four the second semester. AP English is always for second-semester seniors, and my senior year was no exception. Just before spring break, we were given a choice of five books to read and write papers on. Since I knew I had a copy of P&P, I went with that one – even though I’m a librarian, I prefer having my own copies of books and always have.

That spring break was pretty special – I was going on a big trip. To Daytona? No. To Myrtle Beach? No. To Ocean Isle? Not even that. Actually, I went to Nashville with my dad. Oh, yeah, I’m cool! Spring break trip with my dad! hehe. One of our other AP English assignments had to do with finding resources on a career. I thought I wanted to do marketing with Christian bands, so my dad got some appointments for us in Nashville. We went to the Smalltown Poets’ release party at Rocketown, toured EMI, and saw some great bands perform. It was a good time.

But, back to Pride and Prejudice. I took it on the trip, expecting to read it during the week and get it done by the time I was back. What I didn’t count on was being completely hooked. On the way there, my dad kept trying to get me to drive, and I kept telling him no, that I had to keep reading. I had a feeling that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would get together, but his first proposal completely shocked me. I gasped so loudly that my dad was sure something was wrong. Arrogant Mr. Darcy in love with Elizabeth Bennet the whole time!? It was unbelievable. And unbelievably romantic.

The problem was that I finished the book on the way there. So, during the week, I read it again. And finished it again. Luckily, I drove most of the way home, so I didn’t have to start it for the third time in a week. When I got back to school, some of the other girls (I think all the girls chose P&P, but none of the guys did) were having trouble getting into the language, and I kept encouraging them to stick with it. My excitement was contagious, and it was fun to watch the story unfold for them just like it had for me.

It’s hard for me to believe I was 17 before reading it. I had read the Bronte sisters (and I honestly am not a huge fan of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre) and Jane Austen and the Brontes are often stepping-stones to one another. Somehow I missed that connection. Now I re-read Pride and Prejudice on a regular basis, and Mike was good enough to buy me the DVD series. One of the things I love about him is that he likes the miniseries, too. I’ll catch him saying things like, “She is tolerable, I suppose,” or, “Then go to it!” He also loves to imitate Mrs. Bennet. He even started reading the book, and was getting into the language and the story more than he expected.

For me, reading is often about that experience. What was I doing when Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, or when Sherlock Holmes first kissed Mary Russell [in the kitchen, reading while eating chips and salsa]? How about when Harriet Vane finally gave in to Lord Peter and they passionately embraced in the middle of the road [in bed reading one Saturday morning at my aunt’s house]? What about when I fell in love with Anne Lamott’s self-depricating style [taking a bubble bath after a long day when Mike was out of town]? Not only does re-reading take me back to those familiar characters – it also takes me back to where I was when I first discovered them.

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