bettered novels (22.1)
At the time I considered myself a great reader1 and East of Eden perhaps the greatest book ever written in English. So it is not a surprise that my first reading of Pride & Prejudice was not marked by any particular sympathy. It was recommended to me at the age of fourteen or fifteen by a teacher, and I’m afraid I did not like it.2
Well, that is not wholly true. To say I did not like it assumes a more considered, sensible, and active response than perhaps I was capable of at the time: I thought it boring and plotless – by which I suppose I mean that nothing much happened.3 Indeed, the only thing I could remember when I finished reading was a long muddy walk that was for some reason supposed to be shocking.
Although it did not strike me as a possibility at the time, the attentiveness of that first reading was perhaps questionable – especially as nothing beyond the seventh chapter appeared to have made much of an impression. A few years (and a strong dose of Byron) later, my opinions underwent a material change and, though never one to number myself among the Janeites, I have found the novels worth rereading every year or so.4
- An evaluation which is not untrue, then as now, if one is considering quantity rather than quality of both reading and books.
- Indeed, I seldom care to have books recommended to me, much preferring to hear books praised and then decide for myself whether I am liable to like them or not. In recommending books there is always the hope of seeing someone else like something one has enjoyed, and this desire clouds even the most well-meaning judgment.
- And thinking about it now, one could probably make a case for this not being a wholly inaccurate description.
- Except for Emma, which I’ve never managed to like and barely managed to finish once.