|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 275 pages
Start Date: Sept. 10, 2010
Finished Date: Oct. 24, 2010
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo (my edition can be found here but is currently sold out; it was on sale for $5!)
Why Read: On my lifetime reading list & after hearing so much about Jane Austen, curiosity finally took over. Read my post about the experience of buying the book.
Summary: The Bennet family with 5 unwed daughters are pressured to marry and are routinely introduced to a number of eligible suitors through social gatherings until the arrival of a rich bachelor and his seemingly stuck-up friend.
Confession: I have an English degree and (*gasp*) have never read Jane Austen before. Curiosity did not overcome this issue until recently. Until now, I thought I had been missing the most incredible novel ever written. I wouldn't go that far--it's a highly debatable & touchy issue, especially with book bloggers. Feel free to open up a debate in the comments.
What I can say now is that I have read something of Jane Austen's and I think she is a charming writer. The writing is flowery, fluffy, and fun. If you read it aloud, it should be with flair, class, and with a quick, sharp wit. I tend to read books at a slow to moderate pace, which nearly broke my experience with P&P. It took 100 pages for me to really get into and have fun reading it. Changing my reading pace seemed to help :oD
Elizabeth Bennet is a fine character, very respectable and ahead of her time for questioning her assumed fate as a wife, settling for anyone that shows an interest in her, and taking romance as seriously or mindlessly as her sisters Lydia and Kitty. Then again, Elizabeth is not without pride...or prejudice. None of the book's characters are, as Austen reminds us on nearly every page. Elizabeth is too quick to judge the decent Mr. Darcy, who is equally wrong to dismiss Elizabeth just to impress his rich friend, and yet they both recognize each other's unquestionable attraction and equally rash impressions of one another.
Now for the elephant in the room: Is this all there is? As Charlotte Bronte was quoted in response to P&P: "... a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but ... no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck." In other words, it has lots of pomp & circumstance, but little richness to its soul. It has the guts to deny or at least argue ill reasons against traditions such as arranged marriage, betrothal, henpecking, and underaged unions, but it also makes them happen. If only Austen lived in more modern times, she could have had more opportunity to break the mould of romance novels. Instead, there was George Eliot, who had to resort to a male pseudonym in order to write those types of novels, including Scenes From a Clerical Life ("Janet's Repentence") about a victim of domestic violence.
I can't write a review of P&P without bringing up the many movie adaptations:
First in 1940 with Greer Garson as Elizabeth, Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy, Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet, Edmund Gwenn (a.k.a. Santa Claus from Miracle on 34th Street) as Mr. Bennet, Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, and Ann Rutherford as Lydia.
In 1995, Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy in the TV miniseries, the mostly highly regarded of the adaptations and beloved by every P&P fan I've encountered.
In the 2005 movie, Keira Knightley played Elizabeth, Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy, Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet, Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet, Jena Malone as Lydia, and Carey Mulligan as Kitty.
I haven't yet seen any of them, except the modernized inspiration, Bridget Jones's Diary which had Colin Firth as Mark Darcy (could it be any more obvious?) and he also badmouthed his future lady love behind her back. Bridget, to me, is more admirable and definitely more independent-minded than Elizabeth Bennet, yet both sweetly show how a love story works remarkably well by reversing original, often overreaching, reactions to the unlikely romantic partner, and then mending the conflict into a lightbulb moment--it is possible for love to develop and not merely be everpresent.
Rank: (A)- Really Liked It, Recommend