You have no idea how tempted I was to take a picture of Elma with my battered copy of the real Pride and Prejudice but no, I’m not going all Tiger Mummy. I suspect the girls are a smidgen too young for my copy just yet, and if they fail to win Nobel prizes/ conduct the London Symphony Orchestra/ discover that the moon is made out of cheese after all, all for want of a little Jane Austen in their tenderest years, I apologise to humanity.
But there is something very special in introducing characters you treasure to the people you love best, and so it is with Mr Darcy and Elizabeth.
I met them as a child, watching the video box of the 1980 Elizabeth Garvie/David Rintoul version with Mum on cold rainy winter afternoons, and loved it for the story and the costumes, even though most of the politics and the reality of their situations sailed far over my head, and when I came to read the real thing in my early teens they felt like childhood friends.
Elma’s little board book isn’t a children’s version, in the sense of an abridged and edited story, just a beautiful board book of needle felted characters acting out the key scenes.
And so every telling is different. Sometimes we focus on Jane, her kindness, her romance with Bingley, and the twists and turns of her happy ending, sometimes it’s Elizabeth and Darcy. Sometimes Wickham, Lydia, Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine make an appearance, and sometimes they don’t.
As far as Elma is concerned, I think she just likes cuddling up and the sound of my voice, although there is a certain volume of evidence to suggest that it’s also very tasty.
But perhaps it’s my love of the story behind the pictures that’s added Kitty to the fan club (although I was sold as soon as I saw the needle felting so it could just as easily be the pictures). She knows it’s her sister’s book, but she’ll sneak off with it in a quiet moment to turn the pages for her teddies and tell them her own version of the story, usually fairly accurately, although Jane and Elizabeth occasionally get recast as Cinderella.
In fact the only objection to adding it to our story pile tends to come from Elma if she’s been eyeing it up for a quick snack.
One of these days they’re going to realise that those little turns of phrase that Mummy kept coming up with weren’t my words after all – I hope they forgive me.
Cozy Classics is bringing out some more titles over the autumn, so I may have to drop Father Christmas a heads up nearer the time.