This is going to be embarrassing.
Let me start by saying I’m not one to pretend I enjoyed a book when I didn’t. It’s more my style to sit back and say nothing, or maybe divert attention away from my dislike (or, more likely: indifference), by saying I liked something else better. Like when people gush about Harry Potter, I say that I really enjoyed C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia better. Maybe it’s because I was a child when I first read Lewis’s books, and perhaps as a slightly jaded adult, I just couldn’t appreciate the HP books the way they were meant to be appreciated. But I’m not dumping on anyone else’s love for the books; they’re just not for me. And I’m usually okay with that—some books just aren’t for me.
But there is one book that I’ve never managed to get through, despite several attempts and that guilty feeling that I should read it. I’ve been so convinced I need to read it, that I recently discovered I own three copies of it. So that’s three times I have tried (and failed) to read Pride and Prejudice. It’s become my literary arch nemesis. And I’ll tell you why I don’t like it, and this is where it gets embarrassing. I don’t get it. Pure and simple, the language in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is too hard for me. Now, I’m no simpleton and I did manage to get a degree and do hold a job where it’s necessary that I do a certain amount of reading and writing, and I even convinced the fine people at Bloomsbury to publish my book, so it’s not that I’m illiterate. But I just feel like I’m working too hard when I pick up P&P. I’m sure any teachers out there are cringing and throwing tomatoes at the screen when I say that I keep putting the book down because it’s too much work, but I do. Not only do I feel like I’m only getting about 70% of the story (and the humor, because I’m pretty sure a lot of the book is quite funny—I think) but when I read it, I feel stupid for not getting it. I’m guessing this is why a lot of kids stop reading and where it’s important that we encourage them to pick up the books that are right for them. The ones that will engage them and make them feel smart and want to read more. Like when I was in high school, I realized the right books for me were the V.C. Andrews books (remember the scandalous FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC?) and weird sci-fi books, like John Wyndham’s THE TROUBLE WITH LICHEN and THE CHRYSALIDS, not P&P or other ‘classics’ that seemed too hard and weren’t enjoyable.
I got my fill of unenjoyable classics in the classroom and that was enough for me. I read to be entertained and, similarly, I write to entertain others. I’ll never win a Pulitzer for writing about tween girls who are obsessed with kissing boys and filling out their bras, but hopefully, I can entertain some people. And that’s what it’s all about for me. So it’s okay if some books aren’t for you. No book will please everyone all of the time. And not everyone is made to write ‘important’ books or future classics. But that’s okay—it means we have so many to choose from and will never run out of books to read in our lifetimes. And that’s a very good thing, don’t you think?
I know lots of people love P&P, but let’s hear from our faithful readers—what’s your take? Or, feel free to weigh in on any of the movie versions. I’ve seen the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth and enjoyed it quite a bit. I seem to remember something about a scene in the lake…