Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Posted on | March 4, 2010 | 31 Comments

Mee invited all Pride and Prejudice first-timers to a readalong in February. I’d like to start this post by apologising for not finishing the book in the second month of the year itself, but, I got sidetracked with a couple of other things, and well, you know how it goes…

Pride and Prejudice is my very first Austen (yes, I’m a book blogger who has never read an Austen. Shame on me!), and there are so many things I want to say about the experience. I’m not going to write a proper “review” with a story recap etc. as, well, most people have a general idea as to what the story’s about, and in my opinion, knowing more can ruin the story for them.

That was my major gripe with Pride and Prejudice. I really wish I’d read it as a teenager, as I wasn’t aware of the storyline back then. Things have changed since, and much to my displeasure, I discovered that a lot of the feel-goodness of the book was lost as I already knew how things would come together in the end. Further, I also knew how a couple of characters would turn out, which was annoying.

That said, I did still enjoy the book, if for nothing else, the language – oh, how I loved the language! Why don’t we speak like that now-a-days? Well-articulated, romantic sentences in proper English (it was the nineteenth century), with appropriate exaggerations? It’s a fantastic world to get lost into, and the emphasis is so much more on the dialogue than the ambience. Through the dialogue, you acquaint yourself with the characters, and it’s almost as though you’re right there with them through everything: the balls and the walks, the ecstasy and the misery, the anger and the lament. You even get to read the letters between the characters, which tells you all the more about them, and by the end of the book, everyone has a favourite: Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Darcy. Unfortunately, none of the other characters jump off the pages as much as the aforementioned.

Yet, I cannot fault Austen for characterisation. As readers, we’re introduced to a myriad of characters who stem from being naively good hearted to downright self-involved and manipulative; from being “airheads” (sorry, but that is the apt twenty-first century term) to being gallant; from being weak-minded or avaricious to having severe delusions of grandeur thanks to association. The people would fit in today’s society easily – we see them every day! Some we would judge, and some we’d want for our best friend. Some we’d loathe, and some we’d do our best to bring down to earth. Some we’d instantly have an opinion on, only to be proven wrong. That aspect of timelessness amazes me – are society’s virtues and vices inherently still the same across two centuries?

And then, we come to the setting: Austen brilliantly brings out life in the nineteenth century, almost satirically. Imagine a world where girls aren’t allowed inheritance, despite the property being owned by their father? How about a world where an embarrassing mother is trying to find an eligible bachelor for five teenage daughters (who really should be in school)? Or, a world where people who earn five thousand pounds annually are considered rich? Where girls are looking out for eligible “Officers” as potential husbands – everyone really has only one thing on their minds?! Some of the essential laws of human survival exist: power rules, money talks, estates wow and some people are better as indifferent acquaintances instead of friends!

I did like the dynamics between the characters as well, specially the Bennet family (including the aunts and uncles). Also, must make a special mention of the relationships between Mr. Darcy and his sister, and Mr. Darcy and his aunt Catherine, for they made the book a lot more rich!

I really did enjoy the book, although, maybe not the story in itself, if that makes sense? Again, I attribute that to me already knowing the way the plot would turn, and hence, missing out on the feel-good factor. Also, some of the romanticism and mushiness was a little much for me, but, I guess that was part and parcel of the nineteenth century, and maybe, in another lifetime, I was Elizabeth Bennet. Well, a girl can dream. :)

Comments

31 Responses to “Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice”

  1. Melody
    March 5th, 2010 @ 12:14 am

    P&P is my first Austen book too! :P I’ve to say this is my favourite Austen book I’ve read so far (not that I’d read many, LOL), followed by Persuasion.

  2. Becky
    March 5th, 2010 @ 12:19 am

    I lvoed reading you review. I love all of Austen, but Pride and Prejudice is my favourite, closely followed by Emma. I am with you, I thinkt hat what makes it particularly wonderful is the dialogue, I wish I could talk like that. Austen also does such a good job and establishing characters, you know who they are so intimately that its wonderful!

  3. mee
    March 5th, 2010 @ 3:01 am

    Wonderful review! I too enjoyed the book, thought am not too fond of the story, even though I knew almost nothing about the plot (apart from Mr Darcy and Elizabeth end up together at the end). So I totally understand you.

    I still don’t understand why the girls are not allowed inheritance from their father. Who sets these rules? What prevents Mr Bennet to do otherwise? I don’t get it.

  4. Bookie Mee | Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    March 5th, 2010 @ 3:06 am

    […] another cookie crumbles: “I really did enjoy the book, although, maybe not the story in itself, if that makes sense? Again, I attribute that to me already knowing the way the plot would turn, and hence, missing out on the feel-good factor. Also, some of the romanticism and mushiness was a little much for me, but, I guess that was part and parcel of the nineteenth century, and maybe, in another lifetime, I was Elizabeth Bennet. Well, a girl can dream. :)“ […]

  5. Café Chick
    March 5th, 2010 @ 4:23 am

    I don’t have a great success rate with reading classic novels, but I have read Pride and Prejudice a few times and still adore it. Austen really helps us step back into a period of history where the biggest dilemmas facing a family (apart from the land/inheritance issue) can be solved with a ‘successful’ marriage. Hard to imagine, really!

  6. Louise
    March 5th, 2010 @ 7:04 am

    Hello, its great to read a review on a classic and get someone’s ‘first time impression’.
    Like you said most people have read it as teenagers and it’s quite cool to have the opinon of someone who is fresh to it. Am curious as to the romanticism and mushiness – were there particular bits or was it the overall tone of the writing that felt like that to you? I wonder if the movies around this have made it seem that way???
    Or we are unused to things turning out right in contemporary literature – modern writing doesn’t have happy endings like this so often…. As far as JA’s writing goes, it is so precise and finely etched and ironic, that I can’t see mushiness and overblown romanticism in it myself. Rather I see understated, knowing, insentimental self-deprecating comedy….

  7. silverseason
    March 5th, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    All problems (for women) can be solved by a successful marriage. Worse, all problems must be solved by a successful marriage because women at that time had no way to earn a living respectably and much less opportunity to inherit wealth than their brothers. What I love about Austen is how she takes a society with these rules and expectations and puts her characters into motion within it. She doesn’t criticize the rules directly, but her criticism is implied by everything that happens in the story.

  8. bookssnob
    March 5th, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    I am jealous that you just read Austen for the first time! I can totally see what you mean about it losing its charm for you because you knew how the story turned out – however, I can reread Austen to my heart’s content and it doesn’t bother me that I know exactly what will happen, because I just love her characters so much.

    You HAVE to read Emma and Persuasion – they are by far her best, with Persuasion, for me, being the most romantic book in the world ever.

  9. Kathleen
    March 5th, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the book. I’m sorry you didn’t have the chance to read it sooner, before you knew so much about it. But you are so right about the language and how it reveals the characters. I love everything I have read by Austen so far!

  10. Sarah
    March 5th, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

    Loved your review! Like so many others I have been reading Austen since being a teenager, and watched all the various productions, etc, and subsequently was starting to feel a little jaded. But it is the language and the subtle criticism of society which are the draw. Thank you for reminding me!

  11. charley
    March 6th, 2010 @ 12:22 am

    I took a long time to warm up to that Mr. Darcy.

  12. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    I’ll probably try Persuasion at some point. I do have Mansfield Park on my shelf, so it might have to be next.

  13. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:16 am

    Thank you – I agree with you. The characters actually end up feeling like long lost friends, who you’d love to communicate with, if for nothing else, the beauty of their language.

  14. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:17 am

    Thanks, and thanks for hosting this as well! Pity about knowing how the book would turn out, in a way!

    Nor did I – it’s the whole “entailment” thing, right? And why Mr. Collins – he was so annoying!!

  15. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:18 am

    That’s really good to hear. I will probably re-read it at some point, simply for the dialogue and the banter. In a way, I’m glad I don’t live in that era.

  16. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:21 am

    I’m not much of a “romance” reader, but the whole Jane moping around thing felt a little excessive, as did the Kitty-Lydia Officer-obsession. Again, a different era…

    I loved the tone of the writing, all said and done. I do like happy endings, although it’s the “typical” endings that get to me. The way the characters evolved in this book, any other ending, I think, would’ve been unfair.

    Think it’s almost as if Austen herself is mocking the society she’s writing about, to be honest. Got the feeling that she didn’t quite agree with a lot of things that were on-going.

  17. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:21 am

    lol, poor Mr. Darcy :)

  18. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    I wish I’d read it as a teenager. I haven’t seen any productions etc. so in that sense, I don’t think I was feeling jaded at all. I do want to see one of the adaptations or the other, just to see that kind of dialogue in that kind of an environment – how accurate is what’s running in my head, if you know what i mean?

  19. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:23 am

    Am glad to hear that, and I look forward to reading more Austen myself! At least I got down to reading it eventually – thought it was a big gaping hole in my reading life, which has now been filled. Bronte next…

  20. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:25 am

    For me, mostly, the first read is about being charmed by the story, and the second (subsequent) read(s) is about finding my favorite bits, and enjoying re-reading those! I feel as though I kind-of did miss out on that first read charm. Thankfully, the book is beautiful enough not to make me feel to irked by it, and go back for a second read.

    I fully intend to :) Might be Mansfield Park next, as I already do have it here, but I’ll follow it up with Persuasion. Thanks for the recommendations.

  21. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    I agree with you. It felt as though she was mocking the society indirectly through the book. I can’t actually imagine living in such a society – it scares me.

  22. silverseason
    March 6th, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    I have seen several movie/tv versions. The best was one the bbc did 8 or 10 years ago. It is very long, several episodes (a mini series), but better than the others. Because of the length, they were able to keep most of the dialog.

  23. Marie
    March 6th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    I know what you mean. Austen’s books are wonderful but they are formulaic; I think the journey is more important than the destination when it comes to reading her, if you know what I mean. :-)

  24. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    Yep, I think I do need to read more of her works though. It’s a hell of a journey, but the destination was foreseen! :)

  25. uncertainprinciples
    March 6th, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I must keep an eye out for it, or look it up on Amazon or something.

  26. Bellezza
    March 7th, 2010 @ 1:38 am

    As this is the only Austen I have read, I couldn’t participate in the P and P for newbies. Maybe we can get organized and read others of hers, because I’m sorely lacking background in Austen, even though I’ve loved the films on PBS. Congratulations on knocking this one off the Unread Block. If there is such a thing. ;)

  27. Nymeth
    March 7th, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    I love Austen’s language as well :D But yes, I can see what you mean about how knowing the story in advance ruins things a little bit.

  28. uncertainprinciples
    March 8th, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

    I think that’s a fantastic idea! I haven’t seen any of the films either (which I think is a good thing), so I’d be up for something like that.

    An “Unread Block”? More like an “Unread Tower” that can compete in height to Everest.

  29. uncertainprinciples
    March 8th, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

    Austen’s language is amazing. Oh well, the language makes up for knowing the story … a little! :)

  30. An Assortment Of Bookish Links : another cookie crumbles
    April 30th, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    […] the Huffington Post, which is fast becoming one of my favourite newspapers. Including quotes from Pride and Prejudice (“Humiliation is the fastest way of growing up.”) and Emma (“Listening to […]

  31. Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey : another cookie crumbles
    October 1st, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

    […] It’s the second book by the much-acclaimed author that I have finished, and while I thought Pride & Prejudice was significantly more enjoyable, this book was quite readable as […]

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