In 1995, the BBC released their timeless television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Since then, countless women have been swooning over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and countless men have been rolling their eyes.
My memory of watching Pride and Prejudice is clear and vivid. What I remember the most is the language—its beauty, its music.
And I could not understand a single word.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. While I could understand each word being spoken individually, I could not understand those words strung together. It was English and it was gibberish. It was glorious and it was frustrating. So I borrowed Pride and Prejudice from the library and read it. And I read it again. My next clear memory is listening to Pride and Prejudice read aloud. I was laying on the couch in my living room and something clicked.
Gibberish became English. Frustration became glory.
Rigorous reading—trying, and trying again, and then again—opened up the genius of Jane Austen. With her came a tidal wave of excellence and beauty in Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Shakespeare, and Dante Alighieri. My knowledge of the English language grew and that experience stayed with me through college and beyond. The veil hanging over my limited understanding ripped in half and “dry boring old books” came to life, resurrected through rigorous reading.
The problem was not with those books. The problem was me. The human mind is a wonderful thing; it grows and learns, but we all have to press ourselves and our minds into that growth. I learned the lesson of rigorous reading by accident. I’m glad I did.
Finding Jane was worth it.