Aphra Behn and Books Galore

Aphra Behn is proving to be very difficult to get into. I am running around tidying up and dusting this little attic room that is our home until the end of the month because there is a viewing here today, and listening to Mindy Kaling’s ‘Why Not Me?’ which I am thoroughly enjoying, by the way.

It is hilarious and interesting and I feel like Mindy is like an older sister giving me sensible advice for the current times, which is something Aphra Behn cannot do.

Can Aphra Behn tell me that confidence is the result of hard work? Can Aphra Behn tell me that it is ok to hate my fat? Can Aphra Behn give me some glamorous Hollywood ‘look-great’ secrets, and give me little snippets of her love life while she is at it?

Well I don’t know, since I have not read Aphra Behn yet.

The introduction tells me she has a very high opinion of her own writing, and it seems rather less dramatic and detailed than Shakespeare, which is a good thing, considering that although old Shakey (as Will from Goodnight Mister Tom whispered happily to himself –he certainly enjoyed Shakespeare) is still critically acclaimed more than four hundred years after his death, I find his sonnets and plays ‘tragically’ boring and cannot get into them at all.

Does this make me a literary fraud?

If it makes you feel any better, I love Coolidge and Montgomery (that’s Lucy Maud) and Alcott and all the Bronte’s and Austen and Dickens and Mitchell (that’s Margaret) and Stevenson and Shelley (Mary, not Percy) and even Hawthorne and Wilde and Elliot and my goodness Thackeray! And loads more, of course. I have a penchant for old novels, especially old romance novels, and their language does not faze me in the slightest. In fact it is the reason that I love them so! I detest the frank crudeness of modern day romance, the illicit sex scenes, the ridiculous Hollywood ‘glitches’ etc etc but I understand why people relish them.

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To me Austen’s romance novels are perfect because they combine beautiful language, eloquent speeches and respectful romance. I want to be courted, I want to go for long walks with Mr Darcy, I don’t want some guy to come along and woo me with a ridiculous pick-up line reeking of sexual innuendo.

On one of our first dates, my husband put my hand through his arm on an icy wintry evening and we walked down the road towards my house. We lingered outside for the longest time, talking about everything, and then he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to stop talking to you just yet, let’s go around the block one more time”

We ended up walking for another hour, and I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember feeling gloriously full of giddy delight because of how gentlemanly he was.

He didn’t kiss me either. He smiled at me with his heart-dropping dimples and that was it. Then he sent me a text before I went to bed telling me he thought my smile was the most beautiful thing about my face.

It’s cheesy I know but this is what I love about romance. Mr Darcy professing his love for Elizabeth, and writing her a beautiful letter full of respect and gallantry. Mr Bhaer (YES, I WANTED LAURIE FOR JO TOO, BUT MR BHAER WON ME OVER BY HIS SHEER CHIVALRY AND GENTLEMANLINESS) wooing Jo, the way Ned Worthington could not focus on his work, aaand my personal favourite; Anne and Gilbert’s beautiful, blossoming, almost soap-opera like romance filled with wondrous magic, flowery language and Anne’s own fantastic mind. Aaaagh! I cannot say how many times I have read Anne and its sequels. Emily and her sequels. Pat and hers. Countless more! Lucy Maud Montgomery was the echoing voice of my childhood years. I based my dream home on Green Gables (still do), am constantly looking for a Violet Vale, and see every birch tree as a beautiful, slender lady to be hugged and loved. I felt like a little Anne, chattering non stop, getting excited about the little weed I found outside our rented flat in the dusty desert that is Dubai. Every summer when we returned to England and went to forests and walked through the countryside and went berry picking I imagined I was on Prince Edward Island and my goodness, was that a dryad peeking mischievously around a tree? Secretly, I dreamed of a bookish Gilbert Blythe who would whisk me away to Lover’s Lane and and and… I LOVE Lucy Maud Montgomery. She made me see the joy in the bleak desert, the light in the dark sky, the kindness in the world. Whenever I felt sad my mind would create happiness in the form of stories, I would create characters based on Anne and Katy and they would do lovely things and bake delicious cakes and live in the countryside.

They always lived in the countryside.

And now I do, and it really finally feels like all my dreams have come true except I am moving to the city again soon and trying to spend all my time outside in the fields and relishing the cold wind and lashing rain because out in the countryside, somehow, it is magical and glorious.

But Shakespeare… don’t get angry, but  when people tell me they love Shakespeare I am judgy because they sound a little pretentious to me.

Juuuust a little.

I KNOW. I am an awful human being.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can see why people would enjoy it. Hell, when I am working on it, deeply analysing each line, I love it! The words, the flow, the excellent combination of wit and skill in language, what’s not to love? And how it all translated onto the stage, how every detail matters, sitting, standing, facing this way or that… it’s incredible!

That being said, however, I just do not see myself sitting down after a long day of hard work and opening a Shakespeare play. Anne of Green Gables, yes, but not Shakespeare.

Well, I guess it is time to stop procrastinating about Behn and actually get into Behn. Who knows, I might just love her the same way I love Lucy Maud Montgomery and her flowery Anne.

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