thoughts on how I like to read and Mansfield Park

So it’s been almost a year since I’ve last written here, but tonight I made myself a cup of chamomile lavender tea (due to reading a passage from Proust about tea) and thought of this blog again (the title Lavender Tisane is a bit of a reference to Proust, even though he talks about lime blossom tisane, not lavender. Close enough.).

I’ve been taking a break from book blogging because I was tired of feeling forced to read all the right books that everyone else was raving about. Sometimes it’s nice to be challenged to read something new and different, but personally, I have to feel free to read whatever I want, whenever I want, and to not feel guilty about being myself when I read.

Last year I read a lot of fantasy, for teens, adults, and kids, including four different takes on the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale (my favourite is Beauty by Robin McKinley), and I went back to The Lord of the Rings because I loved The Hobbit movie. I also read some adorable kids books, like The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (the third in the Penderwicks series, which are about four sisters and are the absolute BEST, so read them if you want modern-day Little Women homages and general nostalgic the bestness). I also read lots of my lovely Jane Austen, as usual, and more Georgette Heyer. What I didn’t do was force myself to read a ton of books I wasn’t completely into. I didn’t even finish 50 books last year! I just felt sick of putting so much pressure on myself over something that’s supposed to be a fun, relaxing hobby.

One thing about my reading style is that I start a lot of books that I just don’t finish. I have tried to resolve that I will finish more books, but if I’m not in the mood for them, then it’s just not going to happen. I started Little Dorrit last year in the fall (at a very stressful family wedding out in the Maritimes–I finally got to see the Anne of Green Gables museum and all that at Prince Edward Island, but my husband wasn’t able to come with me and there were crazy family times) and had to take a break from it because it was making me too depressed. I picked it up again this year, but the same thing happened. Will I ever finish it? Who knows, hopefully, but I’m not going to push myself. Part of the reason is because I already have depression and don’t need what I do for fun to make me feel worse. I want to read to feel better. Other people have different motives for reading and that’s good too, but I no longer want to feel pressured into copying whatever everyone else is doing.

In the past, I’ve read the entire Twilight series because I enjoyed it. I’ve also read the entirely of In Search of Lost Time, also because I enjoyed it. I love variety in my reading, as long as it’s something I chose and that I’m enjoying.

Anyway, now that that reading manifesto or rant is out of the way… I’m currently rereading Mansfield Park. I love Fanny even if she’s not the most exciting Austen heroine (I’m very fond of all of them and can relate in different ways to all of them too), but I find it hard to read about her struggles with Mrs. Norris and the like because I’ve also been super shy and overlooked or looked down on and didn’t always know how to speak up for myself. I’ve never been a big fan of the Crawfords, although it varies with each reading how more or less sympathetic I feel towards Henry Crawford.

When I read it last year, I felt bad that Edmund couldn’t see Fanny’s beauty sooner, as Henry Crawford does. I wanted Fanny to be with someone who loved her passionately, like Henry does. But this time, all I see is how selfish Henry’s love is. He’s all excited that he’s going to raise poor little nobody Fanny to a position of importance due to his power and of course she will be eternally grateful to him and since she’s so gentle she’ll never have her own opinions but always do whatever he wants, blah blah. He never stops to consider if she actually loves him or if he’s worthy of someone as good as she is, he simply assumes that because he’s rich and charming she’ll be thrilled. Mr. Darcy also assumed that Elizabeth would jump at him for his money and whatever else (certainly not his charm), but when she proved him wrong, he went out and CHANGED for the better. He didn’t try to manipulate her, he actually listened to her and became a better person because of her. 

(Sidenote, I’ve been watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on youtube and very much enjoying them, although I hate waiting for the next one! I don’t know if other book bloggers are watching them, but hopefully some are so we can talk about it!)

So I am reading Mansfield Park slowly, because I have to stop to feel sad for Fanny and worry about the next drama coming her way via Mrs. Norris and the Crawfords, whether it’s an unwanted and pressured marriage proposal or a difficult day out cutting roses in the sun! I’m sensitive enough that a lot of conflict in books gives me grief. I also enjoy just savouring Jane Austen’s writing and not rushing through it. There are other books I want to read after this, but I like taking my time to really live in Austen’s world.

I read Pride & Prejudice before this (due to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the 200th anniversary of P&P) and also read it slowly. The language and dialogue of Pride & Prejudice especially is so familiar to me, so iconic, that I didn’t want to just rush through it and only enjoy the wit on the surface, I wanted to see beneath to the real characters and their motivations. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries really helped me to see the story in a fresh light, when sometimes in the past it’s felt a little stale to me, and I was intrigued by the story of Elizabeth and Darcy and seeing them not just in a romantic light, where all their fights are ooh so sexy, but looking at them as people still growing up and finding themselves and how they influence each other and change each other.

Well, I think this is enough for now. I don’t know how often I will write here in the future and I certainly don’t plan on getting involved in reading challenges and whatnot, I just wanted a place to share some of my thoughts about the books I read.

7 thoughts on “thoughts on how I like to read and Mansfield Park

  1. Diana says:

    I also have a habit of abandoning half-read books. In many instances I've picked them up at a later date and fallen in love. Conclusion: I'm a distracted reader; the books cannot be blamed.

    I believe a lot of the book bloggers are watching LBD. I've rather enjoyed it, though I must say I think the show produces much better comedy than drama. Somehow the intense dramatic episodes always falls short for me. Also, there hasn't been enough Darcy!

  2. Vintage Reading says:

    Great to see you back!

    I liked the way you identified with Fanny. I'm fond of her, too, and I adore Mansfield Park. I must confess to a soft spot for Henry though, Edward is sometimes a little dull!

  3. Alex in Leeds says:

    Welcome back. I'm with you on Henry Crawford, a selfish boy who likes the idea of being Fanny's hero. If she did marry him it'd be a disaster – either she'd grow up and they'd fight non-stop or he'd get bored and crave adventure and head off to the city.

  4. sarah says:

    I followed a link to your blog and am so pleased I did. I love Mansfield Park, although I make a rather political reading of it, and I think Fanny and Edward are anti-heroes. But I won't bore you with my whole analysis, I'll just go instead and explore the rest of your lovely site 🙂

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