Pride and Prejudice

Published: 1813
Author: Jane Austen


I finally get around to reading the classic novel

It is a truth universally acknowledged that book reviewers in need of a quirky and unique opening always turn to Jane Austen thinking they are being oh so funny and clever.  Thank God I would never stoop to such cheap cliches….

I recently listed ten classic books that I hadn’t yet got round to reading.  There was a lot of surprise that Pride and Prejudice was on the list and several people told me that it was one of their favourite novels of all time and that I had to rectify my omission as soon as possible.  I was persuaded and when I decided which books to read and review before the end of the year I took the plunge and gave it another go.  I finally found out what everyone was so excited about.

The story is familiar thanks to a multitude of television and TV adaptations, notably the 1995 BBC series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.  The hideous Mrs Bennett, a middle class nightmare of a woman, is desperate to marry off her five daughters to wealthy young bachelors.  Her hopes are raised by the arrival in the neighbourhood of Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy.  Bingley is charming, kind and handsome and catches the eye of oldest daughter Jane, but Darcy merely engenders dislike in the family, particularly from second daughter Elizabeth who is a headstrong young woman.

Each time I’ve tried to read Pride and Prejudice in the past, I’ve given up quickly, usually in the first chapter as I was so frustrated by Mrs Bennett.  I’m not sure if a more unpleasant woman has ever been captured on the page but I had no desire to continue reading and get to know her and her family better.

At first I found the writing style of the 19th century difficult to get used to. My reading tastes are much more in tune with the modern narrative style so it took a good few chapters to train my mind to take in all of the information on the page.  My 21st century brain also found some of the plot devices tricky to comprehend.  I love the sympathy that a good bout of manflu can earn me as much as the next girl, but did Jane really have to simper and stay in bed at Bingley’s for as long as she did?  Man up woman!  Still I was prepared to suspend disbelief to allow myself to keep reading on.

I found myself appreciating the characters a lot more than I ever had before.  Mrs Bennett is a truly horrible little woman surely created specifically for us to dislike.  Lizzie Bennett on the other hand is great – a strong-willed, capable and opinionated woman living in a time and place when such behaviour wasn’t expected from the fairer sex.

I immediately fell in love with Mr Darcy.  Yes, he was arrogant, judgmental and proud but unlike Lizzie I immediately saw through all that to the kind, considerate man below.  Or maybe I just remembered Colin Firth wading out of a lake with a clinging shirt.  Other characters, both likeable and detestable, were well drawn and came to life wonderfully on the page.

The story, although gentle in terms of today’s novels, must have been quite radical when first published.  A young woman running away and setting up home with a man before marriage must have raised some eyebrows in fashionable society.  The very society which is so effectively explored and ridiculed by Austen.

I surprised myself by finding the climatic declaration of love between Lizzie and Darcy very moving.  I admit to having a slight tear in my eye and a heaving bosom as the book finished.

I’m glad that I’ve finally read Pride and Prejudice.  It hasn’t rocketed to the top of my list of all-time favourite books and I’m not sure that I’ll be rushing to re-read it, but it was a pleasant experience and I no longer feel as though I’m missing out on something special.

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  1. I’m so glad you liked it! I read it for the first time a couple years ago, and wasn’t really expecting to like it, or really ‘get’ it. What a surprise that it turned out to be really enjoyable :) And yes, it takes me a while to wrap my modern brain around the language of this time period, too. I’m reading The Age of Innocence right now and oh boy, did it take some work to get into!

  2. I think that loving the P&P movies helped me appreciate this one more. Love me some Mr. Darcy.

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