I’m posting this on Wednesday, May 17th, the day on which I am 380 pages into Mansfield Park. This lesser know Jane Austen novel traces how the oft-mistreated Fanny Price works to maintain her integrity despite the chaos and compromises around her.
It is…not the most readable Austen book. Fanny is blushing and quiet— unlike Elinor Dashwood or Lizzie Bennet. Mansfield Park moves very slowly along for 440 pages. No one else is particularly likable and Fanny doesn’t really draw the reader in based on her own personality. Fanny will be vindicated, of course, but 380 pages in I’m just barely starting to feel the momentum to the end.
So, it’s been a project. But this is why I have adopted the practice of reading precisely 10 pages per day toward my goal of reading through all the works of Jane Austen this year. Ten pages doesn’t take that long. Because it’s such a small daily requirement, I actually read the ten pages, rather than flipping through to see if something more interesting is coming up. I feel a certain patience with the whole process, because I know that if I stick with it, I will be done. I know the day I will be done! (Well, the outside possibility of the day I will be done. If I’m 20 pages from the end I suspect I might just keep going.)
This sense of steady forward progress was helpful when I was mired in the middle. At 280 pages, I had been reading Mansfield Park for four weeks. And I still had 160 more pages — that is, 16 more days — to go. But 16 days isn’t an eternity, and eventually we will be on the other side of those days. And because I stick with this project, I will be done with the book.
I’m all for abandoning books one doesn’t like, but that isn’t the point of my year-long reading project. Instead, I do think it’s good to practice patience with important books, and the commitment to reading just a little bit every day really does help with that. I think if I’d just thought “hey, I should read Mansfield Park!” I would have quit a long time ago (possibly 37 days ago). But the slow steady pace is doable. So I do it. And I will make it through.
In other news: My 3-year-old is at the stage where we are having some crazy conversations. In the car the other day he asked me “what’s the biggest number?” So I told him “infinity.” He said “No, 100,” which — to be fair — is likely the biggest number on his counting chart at preschool. So I said, “well, what about 101?” He screamed “NO I WANT IT TO BE 100!” So there you go. Math with a toddler! This was followed slightly later by “Mom, when are you going to die?”