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Baker's Dozen

A Life Turning Pages: Robert Forster's Favourite Books
Aug Stone , April 8th, 2020 09:22

The Go-Betweens founder takes Aug Stone through his 'eclectic even to himself' reading tastes

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Jane Austen - Pride And Prejudice
I read this in the late 80s. I'd just left London and gone back to Sydney with the band. My girlfriend at that time was in a group of women who were reading Jane Austen so I went 'ah, ok' and read Pride And Prejudice and I was like 'oh my god, this is maybe the greatest novel I've ever read'. It's got everything. I love the dialogue, I love the way the dialogue's woven through the story. I love the story itself. I love all the observation and the plotting. Gorgeously written. What I then became aware of - although it's very early on in the history of the novel - is the scene that I love, about 200 pages in, when Elizabeth writes the letter to Darcy after he proposes to her and she tells him why she won't marry him, going through all the things that he's done that she finds wrong. And then he gives her a letter in return and goes away. What she has said in the letter to Darcy is everything that you've read up until that point, so that's your version of the events. And then when she reads Darcy's letter, his telling turns out to be a lot truer than what she has written to him and what you as a reader have come to believe. To pull this off after 200 pages... this incredible shift where you start to realize that she's interpreted many things wrongly. When she reads that letter is a very powerful scene. That you can perceive life and have deep relationships and be certain about them and you get it wrong is a huge thing to learn. I read that and thought 'this is so true, this is so beautiful'. It's almost the sort of trick that you'd expect in the 20th century, and she's pulling this off in 1813. An incredible twist to put into a book at any time but so soon in the history of the novel is amazing. Now I've read everything that she wrote but I read Pride And Prejudice every three or four years - I always come back to it. It just knocks me out. Incredible book.


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