I Read A Classic For The First Time In What Feels Like Forever

Back in the day, prior to starting this book blog in 2010, I used to read and genuinely enjoy more classics. Once I began blogging, I started discovering new interests, mainly YA, and so my tastes were all over the place and I was too busy discovering new stuff instead of the classics on my shelves. Suddenly my TBR was out of control and I was reading from all sorts of genres and discovering new stuff I never knew I liked. Plus enter review books pretty early on. And, if we are being honest, forgoing chunky books or more difficult reads in favor of things I could read more quickly because I “needed” to get blog posts up. I knew I was doing it and that was okay with me. I was prioritizing where my reading tastes where in that moment.

But recently I’ve been wanting to get back into the classics that I still haven’t read. So I decided to pick up a Jane Austen book I haven’t read — Sense & Sensibility.

sense and sensibility

 

I think a statement Will made sums up part of the experience pretty well.

“You are still reading that? I feel like you’ve been reading that for forever.”

Me too, bro, me too. It wasn’t that I was disliking it or that it was a painful read. It was just way slooooowwwer than what I’ve been used to reading over the years. I can fly through a fast paced YA read or a fluffy romance in no time. Sure, I still read books that are a bit slower to digest like a ~literary fiction~ book or a dense fantasy book but this just felt abnormally slow to me.

It took more time. It took more concentration. It took more effort. As a friend put it, “it takes a different reading muscle.” A DIFFERENT READING MUSCLE. Yes. That was exactly it.

After finishing, I came to the conclusion that I think I needed to work out some different reading muscles — for myself, not saying EVERYONE needs to work reading muscles they don’t want to. I needed to slow down my reading a bit. Needed to allow my brain to read something that I couldn’t process as fast as what I mostly read. It allowed for a different reading experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was engaged but it was in a different way not being able to fly through the pages as quickly. There were times I had that same “OMG MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED” but I couldn’t speed read like I’m in the habit of doing with books with more modern and straightforward language for me.

It reminded me of why I like reading and interacting with a variety of things and also why I don’t want to shy away from things that may be more challenging in different ways. Even if sometimes I don’t feel like I’m not quite smart enough to glean all the things I’m supposed to.

 

So what did I think of Sense & Sensibility?

I really enjoyed it! I always enjoy Jane Austen’s commentary on social issues, gender and class and Sense & Sensibility was no exception.

Considering one of my most complicated and best relationships in my life has always been my sister, who is a couple years younger than me, I really appreciated these sisters. I definitely related to Elinor in trying to keep all the shit together knowing that my sister was always the one who took things harder and I felt I needed to take care of her. Watching Elinor push back her own feelings and hurt reminded me so much of the role I took when my mom was sick and then after she passed. I always tried to be strong for my sister and rarely showed my emotions around her, which totally led to misunderstandings and such like in these sisters’ case, but inside was turmoil city. I loved how, like my sister and I, when some of these inner feelings were shared with each other there was an even greater bond. I often wonder had I been more open with her about that I was doing badly too if things would have been easier for me — but alas, I chose to try and ~be strong~ hoping that if she didn’t see me panic that she wouldn’t. It’s no surprise how much I related to Elinor and how much I saw my sister in Marianne.

After reading a lot of classics I’m always thankful for, even while acknowledging how imperfect our society is, that I didn’t live back then. The way marriages were like this business transactions and so may more factors that weren’t LOVE factored into them. How you could lose your family if you wanted to marry down. How you could love someone but a better match could be made based on money. How you could lose your home when your husband dies because inheritance that benefited men more. OOF.

I also really enjoyed that exploration of what goes into happiness in life. Do you marry someone you don’t love because you think money will make you happy? Do you marry for love but risk being miserable and poor? I think my whole life I’ve always thought about this in terms of your career. Do I do what might make me happy but struggle because I won’t have money to do things I want to? Or do I take the job that makes the money but makes me miserable and end up working long hours and having so much money but no time to do what I want? I had this vivid example of this dilemma in my parents — my dad and stepmom who lived more simple lives without a lot of money and my mom and stepdad who made a ton more money but watching my mom seem so stressed out and bring her work home with her but we could do vacations and fun stuff. I always found my dad to be more happy despite money struggles though I can’t say that I think my mom was always UNHAPPY. Tradeoffs to your choices I suppose.

Anyways, to make a long story short. I enjoyed yet another Austen immensely and I’m glad I chose to pick it up despite it taking me so long to read. I loved the way I connected to the book in ways I didn’t expect and, like always, I loved the romance plots, the melodrama and that Jane Austen wit. But mostly I loved this story of sisters trying to find love and happiness even if their path to finding it isn’t the same.

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. Since I’m still in college I have to work that muscle a lot, but I also don’t get to choose what to read. I’m looking forward to picking my own classics. I do get what you mean by it takes forever to read, I think it’s worth it in the end though. It seems like they have a lot more substance and historical context.

    • Definitely worth it! It’s just amazing how different the experience is when you haven’t read it in a while. Definitely have to keep classics in my reading rotation more often because I have so many I want to read! Nice to start using that reading muscle again to speak!

    • I read way less in college than I do now… simply not enough time in the day. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really miss the good ol’ days of college because I have so much more freedom with my life now!

      • I didn’t read much the first three years and then I realized that had to change so I started to review books for the paper so I was held accountable. Best decision ever! But yeah, I don’t think I’m going to miss college.

  2. I read Sense and Sensibility in high school, and my reaction was pretty much “this is taking forever” too. I went back and read more Jane Austen in college, and while the books were still long, I was prepared for it by then. I really do think I need to go back and re-read Sense and Sensibility now because I think I’d appreciate it more. It’s not that I disliked it the first time, but I was so unused to it taking me that long to read books that I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I would now.

    • I felt so guilty for thinking that because I know reading shouldn’t be about flying through books so fast but I was like oh man I could have read like 3 books in this amount of time. But it was worth it! I’d be curious to think how you would feel after a reread!

  3. I go through phases where I read five or six classics in a row and then I don’t touch them for years. Sometimes I feel more like I should have read certain titles than I actually want to read them, if that makes sense!

    • I used to be like that too and then my most recent phase was to apparently not read them for YEARS haha. Hopefully finally picking up one again will help me add them to my reading rotation more often! And YES that makes sooo much sense…I recently went through my Goodreads to try and tame it and realize quite a few books fell into that category of FEELING like I should read it rather than actually wanting to.

  4. The slowness of the reading is something I’ve been experiencing lately when I read in German–it’s slower and more difficult, but definitely just as enjoyable (and I just love the way the language tastes and sounds, as I do with Jane Austen). The metaphor of the muscle rings true to me as well–it’s about practice, and what we’re accustomed to. I know some classics are very fast-paced, but I think Austen does tension a bit differently. She does it in a very slow build, in which we’re pulled this way and that, and it’s beautiful and skillful and I love her writing for it. What else have you read by her?

  5. This is a really lovely, thoughtful post.

    It’s sweet that this book reminded you of your connection with your sister. I’m so glad that you have a sibling whom you love and care for, and that she loves and cares for you.

    And I totally feel the same about being grateful not to live in the time periods of the many of the classics that I’ve been reading lately! Life was just generally tougher in many ways, especially for women and minorities. Of course our present culture is far from perfect, but reading any literature from the 19th century really shines a light on how many things have changed for the better here in the 21st.

    Reading classics really does require a different kind of effort, doesn’t it? I think a big part of it is that even though it’s technically all English, the language of early 1800’s England is quite different from the language of America a little over 2 centuries later! It requires a little bit of translation, in terms of vocabulary or conventions.

  6. I haven’t read any Austen yet. I did get a beautiful copy of Sense and Sensibility for Christmas and I’m really excited about it. I have a little sister, too. It’s comforting to know that there is such a deep bond showcased in this novel. I do love reading classics and a good bit of my favorite novels are classics. They do take a different kind of brain power to read. Although some of them are easier to read because they are more recent considered to be post-modern classics and I think that those are and the majority of novels written in the 20th century are easier to understand. I hope you try to read a few every now and then!

  7. I don’t read many classics and I think your friend summed it up perfectly: it uses a different reading muscle! It just seems like classics take me so long to read and I don’t have the patience to try it. I really should read more of them though. I need to exercise that muscle. 🙂

  8. Love S&S so much! The sister relationship is my fave. I’m so glad you enjoyed it <3

  9. You are 100% RIGHT! Reading classics is completely a different muscle than reading contemporary fiction, YA, etc. I think that when I was in high school, and reading classic lit all the time, I could breeze through them as easily as I read anything today. Now I have to go much slower with a classic than I would with other things – like a bunch of beachy paperbacks. Although, I just read The Martian, and I felt like that was just testing a whole different aspect of my brain too!! Science books need to be in the rotation more!

  10. You are so very right about classics being a very different type of reading than the latest YA. I’m not dissing on any type of reading, because I go on YA binges just like any other good reader does. But after a binge I find myself craving something thick and slow. And after a classic, I usually go on a fluffier binge. This year I decided to shift away from a regular blog posting schedule, and that has freed up my reading choices a lot. Now my blog is more of a reading journal, and I’m okay with that… though it’s not going to get me any high-profile ARCs anytime soon. I’ll wait until those books hit the library and read/review them then.

    Now, have you watched the S&S movie directed by Ang Lee??? It’s sooooo gooooood!!!

  11. I totally agree with you on classics being a different animal to read. I must admit that of the Jane Austen novels I’ve read, Sense and Sensibility is my second least favorite (Mansfield Park takes the least least favorite spot). I always feel like Emma should be my fave but it’s probably Persuasion if I’m being honest.

    I used to try to always read a classic in the summer. I can’t remember if I managed that last year but maybe this year if I can pick one to read–sometimes I feel like there are so many to choose from that it gets overwhelming. My big secret when I worked retail (at a bookstore) and we were allowed to read at the registers during downtime is that I would pull up Project Gutenberg and read classics on the computer. Don’t tell anyone.

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