Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

Pride & Prejudice

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By Jane AustenPride
I, and a very wordly friend, advocate this edition, available @Amazon.
Read: January 2007
Rating: Loverly

When I told people I was reading P&P their reactions were universal–“You haven’t read it yet?!” Even I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long. It stems from my eternal wariness of ‘classics,’ which are rarely as enjoyable as they are notable. This, however, deserves the term ‘classic.’

I first fell into its clutches at my dear friend Sreya’s. Her mother adores Austen, and they have all the BBC movies. Many an afternoon has been spent in front of their TV rewatching P&P or Sense & Sensibility. Collin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy. (And Bridget Jone’s Darcy. And her crush on Collin Firth AS Mr. Darcy…) Oddly enough, I kept seeing Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth, even though I haven’t seen her version yet. She’s just spunkier. Were that a timewarp could kick in.

Though it was evident in the film, I was really quite surprised when reading… Jane Austen is funny!

Mr. Bennet is delightful. He is sardonic, teasing, and good-humored, even when his wife and daughters are flying off the handle. Mrs. Bennet is histrionic and never satisfied. Their youngest, Lydia, is a flirt. Her elder Kitty goes along with everything Lydia does. Mary is a student of platitudes. The eldest, Jane, is a sweet girl who does not wish to think ill of anyone. And then there is the second, Elizabeth, who is the most intelligent and possesses the greatest wit. Alas, upon Mr. Bennet’s death the ladies will be turned out from their home, and so the advantageous marriages of their five daughters is foremost in Mrs. Bennet’s mind.

When a wealthy young man moves into a nearby home Mrs. Bennet is all aflutter. As the book’s first sentence explains, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” He and Jane are drawn together almost immediately, and everyone is certain they will be wed before the year is out. Elizabeth is not so lucky. Their obsequious cousin Mr. Collins, who stands to inherit the family home when Mr. Bennet dies, comes in search of a wife and sets his sights on poor Lizzy. This is the first good look at her wit as she soundly turns him out. She is more interested in the very good-natured and handsome Mr. Wickham, as is every girl in the county, including the silly younger Miss Bennets. 

She is certainly NOT interested in that horrid Mr. Darcy! How arrogant and prideful he is! And Mr. Wickham has confided that Mr. Darcy once treated him horribly, despite their close childhood association. Terrible, really.

And yet circumstances keep throwing them together…

P&P is actually three volumes combined into one. Hence the long and complex description–and the 6 hour BBC production. (You owe yourself that joy. Go get it now.) I haven’t even touched on the rest of the book. It’s a full show, and I suggest taking your time to langour in it over a long break.

My only complaint is how very… muted… mannered… everything is. Even when the characters are incredibly angry, sad, or otherwise passionate, the expression is rather… passionless. This is characteristic of the era, but it still bothers me. I did feel my heart swell toward the end, however, when passions are at last revealed.

I found this volume worked quite well, as it has explanatory notes at the back. Not quite as many as I would’ve liked, but enough, including notes on what words have been changed in past editions.  I think some knowledge of the time is a good pre-req, and after a first read-through it would probably behoove most people to read the cliff notes or an analysis of the Pride v. Prejudice motif, for better understanding when they read it a second time. I know that’s what I will do.


Written by Shen

January 21, 2007 at 10:12 pm

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