[For the Rules, click here.]
"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower--and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti in the world."
Author: Jane Austen
Synopsis: Two sisters, with decidedly different principles for facing life and love, watch each other's ideals tested as they struggle side-by-side through passions and heartbreaks and into marriages.
* * *
We've reached the first Austen book in the countdown. I considered making Austen and Lewis their own special rules because they've both written so many good books, but in the end decided to let the titles stand on their own. Lewis, by the way, is known for saying about Austen that her books had two faults, both of which were "damnable: They are too few and too short".1
Of all her novels, this is the only one that feels even remotely rambly to me. I loved the Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant/Alan Rickman/Kate Winslet movie, which is artistically made and well-acted and concise enough, decently capturing the spirit of the story.
There's a scene in the movie where Marianne rushes crying into one room, her mother rushes crying into another, and Margaret hands Elinor the cup of tea she'd brought for Marianne and disappears crying into a third room. Elinor looks at the closed doors and listens silently to the muffled weeping; then she sits on the stairs and takes a sip from the tea.
My family has laughed and laughed at that scene. Everyone says I take after Elinor, and I do sympathize with her.
More and more through life, though, I tend to be impressed by Elinor and think myself unlike her. "Do you compare your conduct with his?" Elinor asks Marianne, speaking of a former beau who turned out to be a rascal. "No," says Marianne. "I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours."
Elinor's wisdom and self-controlled conduct cannot protect her from suffering, but it can protect her from making an idiot of herself in the process. That sounds like something to me ... what could it be? Ah yes: Reality.
I'm working on that.
1 The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Vol. 2, Hooper, p. 977; quoted from "Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader", John Granger, p. 35