Pride and Prejudice.
Also read at 16. I was a regular at my local library by this point and thanks to WOT (see previous post) constantly haunting the small fantasy/sci-fi section. I decided one day to branch out and ended up in the classics. I had heard Of P and P before, but dismissed it as one of “those old books clever people read” like War and Peace. So when I saw the book was quite short I decided to give it a whirl.
It took me time to pick through the story, the level of vocab was far above anything I had attempted and I had a dictionary on hand to keep my decorum separate from my deportment. The book did wonders for my vocab and I fell more than a little in love with the speech patterns and methods of address. The fact it is such a simple story and yet still has so much warmth even all these years later is testament to the brilliance of the author.
Having avoided romance like the plague until this juncture I felt that my heart actually was female and yes it was melting into a warm puddle on the floor. Not that I would have admitted it at the time!
It was at this point that I actually started to get snide comments from my family. Why was I reading so much? Was I trying to be clever or something? This simply made me stubborn. I used the book for coursework essays for my English GCSE, which I passed, much to my and everyone else’s surprise. A year earlier I could barely write!
The same English teacher who got me reading pushed me into a debating competition. The subject? The TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I had never been so nervous. I stood on that stage shaking like a leaf…
Then I began to speak… The audience was MINE. I even made them laugh with a risky ad-lib. I knew when I stepped off that stage that I had won and my family had seen it. I still feel teenaged smugness over it. I was not thick, I was not stupid and now they all knew it. It was that day I also realised I was going to continue my education… push myself as far as I could. If I could win a debating competition then what else could I do that I had been told I was too stupid for? I owe Jane Austen a very big thank you. Without her I would not have had the confidence to continue with school.