Hello, and welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club, Katherine! Let’s start our chat remembering your first encounter with Miss Austen and her work. When was it? And what was it like?
I stumbled across Pride and Prejudice when I was around nine or ten years old. Since I was a relatively young reader for such a book, I don’t think I was able to fully enjoy the rhythm and nuances of Austen’s language and wit as much as I would have done, had I read the book for the first time later on as a teenager. The novel stayed with me because of its dynamic main characters: Lizzy and Darcy. Even as a kid, I knew, in my gut, that they would get together in the end, and I was never able to forget either of them. I wouldn’t liken my first encounter with Austen’s work as a kind of explosive, chemical moment. If anything, I really grew to love Austen and to genuinely appreciate the range of her works, only as I matured.
What about your favorite Austen hero and heroine? What do you particularly like about them?
My favorite Austen hero would have to be Mr. Darcy. It’s a generic answer, but I think also an inescapable one. When it comes down to it, he has most of the best lines in Pride and Prejudice, and the force of his dialogue always creates such a reaction that it is an almost physical experience. He’s such an imposing and regal character, even when he’s at his most unlikeable. He also undergoes the most remarkable transformation out of anyone in the book, and, as the novel progresses, the reader witnesses the spiritual betterment of a previously proud and awkward personality. Martin Amis puts it best in an essay he wrote: “The final paragraph gives us the extraordinary spectacle of Darcy opening his house, and his arms, to Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle, who make what money they have through trade. Darcy, Jane Austen writes, ‘really loved them.’ This is the wildest romantic extravagance in the entire corpus: a man like Mr. Darcy, chastened, deepened, and finally democratized by the force of love.”