Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

if only I were elizabeth bennet...


The town square is filled with over-sized, comfy black cushions; double wide, red and yellow striped hammocks lazily strung on sleek, wooden frames; large market umbrellas looming overhead; and shelves and shelves of books.  It’s Stadtlesen (city reads) this weekend in Ingelheim on the Rhein and I think it’s ultra cool.  Well, actually it’s ultra hot.  38 degrees hot.  But, since I love books and I love the idea of getting more people into reading (just got great guy hooked on the great Margaret Lawrence!), I’m here, swaying in one of the ultra comfortable hammocks, and I’m reading.  And doing a little people-watching.  

A hot couple is snuggled up, sharing a book;  a small boy is nestled into his mother, listening intently to the story she’s reading to him; a few individuals are browsing the shelves of new books available, at no-cost to peruse for the afternoon; and a group of twenty-somethings are lounging in a cushiony circle, one reading aloud first, then after some discussion the book is passed to the next, and the reading and discussion continues.  The whole thing feels public, maybe a bit bohemian, but with a Parisian, salon atmosphere to it.

It suits perfectly that I am reading a decadent new novel, Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  It’s a mysterious, almost campy, continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  The latter is one of my favourite stories, by one of my fave authors, and I wouldn’t have touched an attempted ‘sequel’ with a ten-foot pole except for the fact that it’s written by another excellent storyteller.  So, I’m giving it a go, and am already very impressed and intrigued.  The beloved characters, so familiar, are alive and well, dancing around in my head.  Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are a few years settled into their happy marriage and have two small children.  It is the eve of the annual ball at Pemberley; everyone we know is invited, and then there’s a murder (dun dun da).

I’m a fan of Elizabeth’s.  I think I would’ve liked her had I lived in 19th century England and had she not been a fictional character.  She is strong, yet feels deeply; she knows who she is and what she believes in; she is optimistic, positive, utmost loyal and stoic.  She is kind, confident and fragile, and absolutely unapologetic about where she comes from, nor where she is now.  She also just so happens to have fallen for exactly the kind of man who I would fall for….capable and generous; an incredibly loyal friend; strong-willed, yet a speaker of few words; clever and silly; confident and yet not really; sensitive and moody; and of course sexy as hell.  Come to think of it, I have fallen for such a man, once or twice...I think one happens to be at home right now. 

Elizabeth handles stress with a calm, pull-up-your-bootstraps attitude.  She receives worrisome news and gets to work bringing the house in order.  She adds logs to the fire so the room is warm and enveloping, and calls for tea and cake.  (Now why didn’t I think of that a few days ago when I received worrying news from back home?  I should’ve just eaten cake.)  She is unflappable, yet speaks her mind.  She is proud but treats others with respect and fairness, demanding the same in return.  She is so cool.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been devouring stories, movies and articles about strong, yet sensitive, positive women (Coco Chanel-brilliant and fascinating, Romy Schneider-beautiful and dark, Queen Elizabeth-just surprising, Ann Romney-totally unexpected and in no way is this a Romney endorsement!) and the power of positive-thinking and unwavering faith, to influence your life, your health and your relationships.

As I lie in the hammock reading under the blazing sun, I can picture Elizabeth reading too, out on the great lawn amid the rolling English countryside.  Perhaps she holds a white parasol in one hand and a book of poetry in the other.  Mr. Darcy comes striding purposefully to her side, plants a gentle kiss on her cheek and sits down next her.  She starts reading aloud to him as he listens contently.  And, as long as there are no more murders, I think they will live happily ever after.
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