As some of you know, I spent part of my childhood in a borough of London called Ealing. Although I was young, and although we only lived there a little while, that chapter of my life was not insignificant. In fact, had a pretty big impact on me.
It’s kind of funny though, because most of my memories of England are quite random. For example, I remember thinking how strange it was that instead of “snack time,” my kindergarten class had “juice time.” I remember enjoying Indian food from our kind neighbor. I remember that really hot day when I got stung by a wasp. I remember the time we traveled to Paris, and how I ventured to the top of the Eiffel Tower with my dad. And, most important, I remember accepting Jesus into my heart with the guidance of my older sister.
I don’t remember all the beautiful buildings, historic landmarks or breathtaking landscapes that the United Kingdom is known for. I would appreciate them now, but at five years old those things could hardly keep my interest. No, unfortunately I only know of those things from movies and books. And I can tell you that, after nearly 20 years of being back in America, I have never stopped wanting to go back. In fact, at 16 years old, I decided that since I couldn’t physically travel to England, I would escape there by getting lost in British novels. But not just any British novels. Beautiful, wonderful, Regency Era, Jane Austen novels.
If you know me even a little bit, you have probably seen me light up when someone starts talking about anything British. (Downton Abbey, anyone?) So naturally, if you mention Jane Austen, I probably won’t shut up. And I have to be honest, it’s not because I’m guilty of swooning over Mr. Darcy. It’s not because Edward Ferrars is delightfully awkward. And it’s not because Jane Bennet is inspiringly sweet.
It’s because this: Even though many of Austen’s characters get what they desire most, it is not until after they have had a little trouble. Or, in some cases, a lot of trouble. And I think we can all relate to this.
As much as I love Pride & Prejudice, I have to say my favorite of Austen’s stories is that of Sense & Sensibility. This novel follows the lives of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. These two lovely ladies, along with their youngest sister and their mother, find themselves in a hard place after the loss of their beloved father/husband. During their journey to find a new “normal,” we learn that Elinor is the sensible one. She’s kind, realistic and very practical. Marianne, on the other hand, is passionate. She’s a hopeless romantic. You may even say she’s a bit of a drama queen.
But everything changes for Marianne after she gets her heart shattered into pieces, rendering her physically ill. She nearly dies of heartbreak. But, as her health improves, she begins to see that what she needs is quite different from what she once wanted. As she comes to her senses, she begins to fall for a man who has been there all along. A man who is constant, steady, dedicated–much unlike the heartless, selfish creature who broke her heart.
In the end, Marianne finds happiness. I love her story enough to mention it here because I believe life is often like her journey, is it not? You and I believe that we know what’s best. We think we know what we want. But sometimes God says no. Sometimes his plans are way different (and WAY better) than our plans. It is his grace that allows us to go through difficult times because every hard season is growing us closer to him and making us more like Christ.
All that being said, I believe all girls–young and old–should read Jane Austen. Within the pages of her six novels, you will find stories not only of hardship and heartbreak, but also of joy and happiness. Although Austen does not often outwardly talk about God, it’s obvious to me that he inspires what can be found on those pages. And, not to mention, the novels are clean, witty, funny and truly delightful.
Girls everywhere (and even the guys, too!): I hope this inspires you to pick up at least one Austen novel. I promise it will inspire you in your everyday life, and you won’t regret it one bit.