A Summer with Jane Austen

Treasures from Jane Austen, published 1817
My Art Buddy chose Pride and Prejudice for our May book discussion. A grandmother of four youngsters, Carol thought Jane Austen a perfect companion on summery days at the lake and baseball games.
I opened my prized volume printed in London, 1817. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” J.A. wit at her best—entirely lost on me when I first read it my senior year in high school.
Now I understand Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth Bennet’s prejudice as well as my own love story. I thought my husband proud when we first met, discovered he wasn’t rich and didn’t want to marry. The latter half mattered.
Did you know First Impressions was Austen’s working title for Pride and Prejudice? With this story, title defines character. I can’t imagine life without Pride and Prejudice, my favorite literary hero and heroine who overcome flaws and social status to gain true love—all because Elizabeth stands up to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. 
“Austen’s satire makes me laugh,” Carol said. We found Austen’s world a refuge from the verbal warfare of our presidential candidates. “Let’s make this our Austen summer,” Carol suggested.
I’d never read Persuasion, so I lifted it from my J.A. collection for June’s book talk. What pleasure to have met Anne Elliot. Admiral and Mrs. Croft are unaware of Anne’s “sorrowful interest.” They invite him, Captain Wentworth, to her “Kellynch circle” seven years after she was persuaded to refuse his hand. Captain Wentworth and the Crofts speak of British warships and differing views permitting women to sail within the English naval community.  
As our reading life often connects to personal events and affections, I sailed in June with my daughters, watched my youngest raise the sail and thought of Mrs. Croft crossing oceans on warships with her husband. Reading Jane Austen for forty-nine years often expands my spheres in more relevant, affordable, and flexible terms than travel.
In early August, Carol and I discussed Northanger Abbey on our annual drive to Stratford, Ontario. Catherine, Austen’s teenage heroine, is more obsessed with novels than finding the perfect man. This transported Carol back to high school and the beginning of her love affair with reading. My love affair with books began the morning my baby became a kindergartener. Unlike Catherine, I'm a late bloomer.
When Carol sat beside her older grandson during Stratford’s performance of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she saw a parallel to Catherine’s imaginings of a huge closet in her Northanger Abbey bedroom. Perhaps Jane Austen inspired C.S. Lewis’s magical doorway to The Chronicles of Narnia.
Individually, we had already read Emma and Mansfield Park, so we concluded our Austen reading respite with Sense and Sensibility. Again, title defines characters, two beloved sisters and opposites. 
“This story is more about the relationship between Elinor and Marianne than with the men they love,” Carol summarized. 
Dear Reader, our summer with Jane Austen reflects our friendship colored with the books we love. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married woman in possession of a good book must be in want of a discussion.