January 28 marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” “I have got my own darling child from London,” she wrote her sister Cassandra and indeed, that “darling child” has become beloved by millions of readers all over the world.
P&P was Austen’s second published book (her first, “Sense and Sensibility,” was published two years before). She had written P&P years earlier–originally titled “First Impressions,” it was rejected “by return post” by a London publisher. Austen re-worked it and re-submitted it sixteen years later, this time, successfully. In a large BBC survey in 2003, P&P was named readers’ second-favorite book of all time, second only to “Lord of the Rings.”
In honor of Austen’s achievement, this week I read “A Walk with Jane Austen,” by Lori Smith. Smith, a 30-something single woman, travels to Great Britain to re-trace Austen’s life path, and look for her own. Smith’s memoir, in which she is open and humble, charming and vulnerable, is highly readable and makes me want to return to England and follow some of Austen’s footsteps myself.
Here’s a sample from Smith’s book:
“[W]hile Jane was–is–big, she never believed that being big was important.
“These are the things I want for myself, the things that become more important after my own dark night where I learned there’s no end to the grace of God.”
Kudos to Smith, for her courage and heart, and of course, to Austen, a woman whose work has entertained and informed so many.
My goal: To read (or re-read) all of Austen’s six novels in 2013.