I’ve been meaning to write, really I have.
I’m 25 now, but this tale really starts when I was 10, browsing the shelves at yet another library book sale I had been dragged to on my precious weekends. It’s not that I didn’t love reading, but most of the books for my age range were pretty old, so I rarely found anything to my liking. (And there was no way I was going to read Bridge to Terabithia for FUN!)
My grandma suggested I look through the classics, as I could always read them later in life for required coursework.
That was when it happened, a formative meeting between owner and book that would start and stop and finally continue on for years to come, despite the moving and chasing of various dreams.
The title itself would not have appealed to me, as I had most likely passed over it hundreds of times before, but the cover was gorgeous. Something about the psychedelic color scheme and not-yet-dusty pages appealed to my aesthetic preferences.
When I got home I tried my best to read it, but having never faced 1800s British literature I was somewhat confused and returned the book to a shelf at home, to be lost until the next time I was in want of leisure reading.
I finally read the book, most likely the summer before junior high. I would have been 12. I probably said I enjoyed the book. After all, the leading ladies ended up married, what more could they want?
I would reread the book you donated many more times. I would read it on road trips, in high school classes, in college lecture halls, in libraries, in parks, on the Metro, in bed when I first woke up, in bed when I couldn’t find sleep, on stairs as my heart was breaking.
I would find solace and pleasure in the book you left, most likely in an effort to clean out your home and do something for the local library. I would find hope and wit and love and hate and, most importantly, and pride and prejudice.
You have probably not thought of that book since the day you dropped it off. You probably have a newer version. You probably have one that lacks the careful and prim notations that you left in the one you donated.
But it is the old quirks of the book you left that has shaped my experience. I have been given newer editions of Pride and Prejudice, ones without writing, highlighting, dogears. Ones with pretty Regency women on the cover. Ones with all the pages still glued to the spine. One that isn’t coming apart at each reading.
I refuse to want another copy, for this is my copy, the copy I grasped tightly as I waited for Lizzy and Mr. Darcy to get their shit together and for the knave, Wickham, to reveal his true self. This was the copy I kept in my bag as I trekked across the state. This was the copy I held close into the night and woke up clutching the next morning.
But it didn’t stop there. I eventually read all of Austen’s works, and found that though Pride and Prejudice is a much-loved book, I could find love and solace in her other stories as well. I could find joy in watching new films based on her work, companionship in bookclubs and great discussion via internet forums.
Most importantly I found something that I could always rely on, like hot tea on a freezing day. Each time I pick up that book it’s like a well-worn sweater, or a best friend to talk to, depending on the reason I picked it up.
So I thank you. I may have had my first introduction to the lovely woman later in life and thus been tainted by my classmates opinions, but instead I was allowed an individual interpretation, one all my own, that I continue to tweak and perfect each time I re-read it.
Maybe you didn’t love the book as much as I did, but I hope you found the same connection in another book, and have kept it close ever since.