I am an introvert. I like words like “peace” and “calm” and “gentle.” I think resting quietly makes for a fun afternoon.
And yet—surprise! In this household, as it turns out, I am the mother of six children, and I employ zero governesses.
I live in a crowded throng, is what I am saying. My kitchen is not unlike market day in an open-air theatre. There are conversations taking place at all hours.
I delight in that crowded throng because it is my crowded throng, and I love the constant conversation because I want to hear what my own little people have to say. It doesn’t leave me wanting for noise and chaos, though. I’m all set.
Thoughts like: Gee, what I need is to be around more people. I could just use more talking out loud in my life. Why is it always so quiet around here? Those thoughts never happen.
Really, outside of my own kitchen-marketplace-stream-of-chatter, I think reading is the best form of social interaction.
Elizabeth Bennet and I, for example, would be great friends.
Yes, a Jane Austen character can be my friend. She can be my friend who lived two hundred years ago. On an estate the size of Belgium. In our collective imagination. Whatever.
I admit that she’s cooler than me by virtue of her empire-waist gowns and her quick wit. I at least would have warned her off Wickham. Never go for the rogue, Lizzie. (Though I probably would have pushed her toward Colonel Fitzwilliam. He’s such a nice guy! I hope maybe he ended up with Georgiana, even if they are cousins.)
Every once in a while, reading a book feels like discovering a grand secret—because surely if anyone else knew about this, they would have told you to read it! And then, if the book is Pride & Prejudice, you realize that they kind of did tell you to read it, since the definition of “classic” could be summed up as A book that lots of people think you should read. So it’s not really a secret. It’s more like a secret club.
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion: they’re all my favorite. I understand I could read a new book every single day for the rest of my life, and still never get through all the best books in the world—and yet I keep coming back to the good company of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
For one thing, they’re entirely supportive of my introverted tendencies. They never expect me to make small talk or to go out to lunch at crowded cafes. I know that describes almost all book characters ever, but there’s also this: I already believe in Lizzie and Darcy. I don’t have to think about it, they just already exist, somewhere in the back of my mind.
(Okay, I picture Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth while I’m reading.)
All of us in the secret club of everyone-who’s-ever-read-Pride-and-Prejudice, we’ve already agreed to believe in them. It’s not hard to do. Some days it’s easier to believe in Lizzie and Darcy than to believe in the world around us, frankly.
Even on days when we hardly believe in ourselves, there they are, each swearing disinterest in the other; and there they are, dancing but barely speaking; and they are again, arm in arm, walking the grounds of Pemberley.
This year I’ll be rereading all six of Jane Austen’s major novels with Nicole and the Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club. Want to join us? There’s still time! We’ll discuss Pride & Prejudice in a Google+ Hangout next week (I barely know what that means, but I will FIGURE IT OUT), and you’re invited. Learn more here. And if you’re on Google+, you might want to add me to your circles? (Again, I only KIND OF know what that means. I’m working on it.)