After an epic failure of posting (despite successful reading) last year, I thought I’d get back on the horse in hopes that the relative tranquility I foresee in 2012 will provide a more motivating environment for blogging.
My first pick of the year was consumed during a lengthy drive across several states that have little to offer visually: Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. My book, on the other hand, was quite entertaining. For 400+ pages, I followed the romantic interests and schemes of the residents of Highbury, where a young (not to mention single) Emma Woodhouse was without equal in beauty and social standing. It was a long, drawn out tale of which girl would win the heart of which guy; the book could have been accurately re-named Four Weddings and A Funeral. In the midst of all the match-making, Austen did a great job of adding twists and turns to the story that felt quite natural and supported an ongoing theme that love can’t be manufactured or imposed.
While the characters were neither vindictive nor ill-meaning, Austen was successful at making Miss Bates (the town chatter-box) and Mrs. Elton (the hot vicar’s wife) thoroughly annoying. She has a knack for fleshing out the character’s personalities to the extent that you can almost hear their voices–especially the irritating ones. My favorite character was Mr. Knightley, a stoic gentleman with the patience and compassion to not just deal with the idiosyncrasies of the elderly Mr. Woodhouse, but to show him deference and genuine concern. Of all the men in the book, Mr. Knightley is the one who kept me wondering until the very end–I wasn’t sure he’d ever settle down.
As I finished the book, this verse from Ecclesiastes came to mind: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Underneath the elegance of Austen’s language we find that the behavior and experiences of the characters are not vastly different from what we see depicted in modern love stories and soap operas: secret engagements, manipulation, broken-hearts, self-centeredness, flaunting one’s status, trampling the desires of others to get one’s way, etc, etc. Yes, there is nothing new, but at least it sounds prettier.