Love at First Gallop: My First Austen Story

Austen UniversityKari Iroz BlogsLeave a Comment

I blame Colin Firth for my Jane Austen obsession. And a couple of my sisters.

I vividly recall being nine years old in my living room as my older sister Richelle (just returned from a semester abroad in London) slid a VHS tape (that’s right, I’m a dinosaur) in the player. 

“You’re going to looooove this,” she insisted and I glanced up from whatever gothic novel I was reading at the time. Probably “Phantom of the Opera” or something equally dark and delicious. “What is it?”

“It’s a romance–the BEST romance. It’s called ‘Pride and Prejudice’.”

“Never heard of it.” My eyes went back to my book where Raoul was trapped in a death maze.

“It’s by Jane Austen. It’s a classic!”

“Mm-hmm…” To be fair, Richelle was the one who’d gotten me hooked on Jane Eyre as well as the Phantom of the Opera musical when I was six. At the time I barely understood the plot but I spent countless hours rushing around our darkened house with my hand “at the level of my eyes.” So she obviously knew what she was talking about, but I was already engrossed.   

“Come on, give it a chance!” She pressed play on the remote and plopped down next to our sister Nichole on the couch. In her hand she still held the case for the movie and Nichole took it from her, suspicious.

“Wait…is it more than one tape?”

“Maybe…” Richelle hedged. “It’s six tapes…”

“Six tapes?!” 

“But they’re only 50 minutes a piece so it’s technically five hours, not six!”

Nichole and I exchanged a “She’s lost her mind” look. 

“I’m not sitting here for five hours!” I declared. But the carpet was warm where I’d been sprawled and we had Red Vines on hand. The intro was already scrolling by–credits over some kind of cross-stitch nonsense with a surprisingly jaunty melody. Chomping on a Red Vine, I bounced a little to the theme music and thought maybe I’d just watch for a few minutes.

Then, across a lush English countryside, rode two horses. 

And astride one of the horses, Mr. Darcy.

I sat up straighter.

It’s not just that Colin Firth is attractive, though I’m pretty sure the phrase “tall, dark, and handsome” was coined to describe him. It was the whole vibe: on horseback with a long coat billowing behind, the top hat that made him look both striking and intriguing, his fierce expression. I was transported from my living room to the grass just outside Netherfield already wondering, before he’d even spoken a word, who this man was and what he was going to do next.

Maybe I’d just watch the first tape…

-Kari Iroz

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