à la Austen

One of the true things that Andrew Clements said in The School Story (which would have been good had it not been for the ending’s nosedive into warm-fuzzydom) is that all writers begin as readers. I most certainly started out as a reader, and a voracious one, before becoming a writer. Even afterwards, reading is a good way to be inspired, to refresh creativity, and to learn how absolutely not to write.

Given that, I was disappointed but not surprised when I tallied up the number of books I read last year and discovered it was a scanty 22. My baseline for reading will always be my middle-school level, when I could check out the library’s limit of five books, polish off one as soon as we got home from the library, and proceed to devour the remaining four within the end of the week.

(Assigned reading for school kept me busy the remaining two days and cemented a strong indignation at books about boys having adventures, which was all my school ever assigned. Before someone builds up a post full of righteous indignation, let me point out that I have nothing against boys having adventures. Yea verily, they should have adventures. But all the books I had to read for school were written before 1950, and in these books, women were dutiful and wise but inevitably boring servants, mothers and sisters who never had any adventures or did anything more than love their masters, sons and brothers and make sure they had a package of food for their adventures. Repeated over and over again from 1st to 8th grade, this message of appropriate gender roles fueled my quest for books like Catherine Called Birdy and the <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/20492360&quot;Enchanted Forest Chronicles.)

Moving on. I definitely did not read enough last year, and definitely felt the worse for it. Effects on my attempts at fiction aside, referencing books I had read two plus years ago made for poor book-talk. This year, I plan to make up for lost time.

Thus far, my tally stands at seven, and I find myself winding down form a bit of an Austen-esque kick. It began with P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly, which was very true to Austen’s style, rich in detail, and a very good mystery besides. Without quite meaning to, because I verge on being a Patricia C. Wrede fangirl, I segued from there to Sorcery and Cecilia and its first sequel, The Grand Tour. I totally adore Sorcery and Cecilia, which is a novel written in letters from two cousins in early 19th century England. While its sequel continues to develop the characters introduced in the first book, and does an impressive job of describing the scenery of half a dozen locales across Europe, my best friend is absolutely right in her assessment that books about travel necessarily have some dull spots.

I had thought that the natural next step for this kick was to read a book by Austen herself, but my desire to read page after page of social calls, fashion, and balls, is beginning to wane. I have to finish the series, because that’s how I roll, but methinks a little dose of something stronger will be called for…a mystery?

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