Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

Last summer, I bought a journal with Jane Austen quotes sprinkled throughout it.  It put me in such a mood to re-read Austen's novels that I went and bought a box set of all her completed novels.  In paperback, but they're trade paperbacks, not pocket ones, so good enough.  And then I never managed to start reading them.  But when I read P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley this year, I knew The Time Had Come to start my journey through Austenland.

I began with Pride and Prejudice.  Seemed logical, since I wanted to compare it to James' mystery.  I'd only read it once before, I think while I was in college and in love with the movie You've Got Mail, which references it.  I wasn't a big fan, and for years my favorite Austen novel had been Persuasion.  When I was in college, I watched the British version of P&P starring Colin Firth, and I did like the Keira Knightley/Angus Macfadyen version pretty well, as I mentioned here and here a few years ago.  But I didn't particularly love the story.

What was wrong with me?

In case you're not up on your Austen, this is the one where Elizabeth Bennet spends most of the book disliking Mr. Darcy because she finds him proud and cold.  Mr. Darcy spends most of the book trying to convince himself he shouldn't love Lizzy because her family is unsuitable.

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said a hundred times, and said better than I ever can?  Not much.  I'm amazed by Austen's ability to make ordinary people so compelling.  I so admire her grasp of how details and small events build up to bring about important changes in hearts, minds, and lives.  And I'm intrigued by her ability to allow a book's events unfold slowly and yet keep me enthralled.

Also, I'm totally in love with Mr. Darcy now.  Just FYI.

2 comments:

  1. I'm actually currently trying to read this one but I just can't get into it. They just keep talking about how good a person is based on how much money they have and how they look. I'm hoping I can get past that and finish the book, but so far no luck.

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    Replies
    1. Well, at that time, a respectable woman's best hope of remaining respectable was to marry a man with enough money to ensure he would be able to support her and her family. Either that or have a rich family herself that could afford to care for a maiden aunt. Jane Austen was fortunate enough to have relations who could support her, plus a literary talent that provided her with a bit of income, as she never married. In the case of the Bennets, with five daughters and no real estate to leave them to care for their needs, marriage with a man who could provide for her was of paramount importance. Elizabeth rebels somewhat against this necessity by forming a slight attachment with the unwealthy Wickham. Lydia later rebels even more, heedless nincompoop that she is.

      So what I'm saying is, the book contains a lot about how people look and how rich they are or aren't, because that's what's important to the characters. But if you stick with it, that gets discussed less as you go along, and people's character and behavior get a lot more page time.

      If you're still struggling with it when I get back, we could discuss it! Or try watching a film adaptation if you just want to know how the darn thing ends :-)

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