So, I have a confession to make. Until February of this year, I had never read a single word of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Most people don’t believe me when I say that. “But you’re an English major!” I know, I know. It’s sacrilege. If I’m being completely honest (what is this, confession!?) I have never (save now for P&P) read any of the classic romantic novels — none of the Bronte sisters, no Jane Austen. It just never happened! I tended to buck the classic romance novels in college, I’m not quite sure why. Maybe that was a way for me to be rebellious. “Oh, EVERYONE you know is an English major? Well, I’ve never even read Austen.” Yeah, that sounds super great in my head now! I’ve long been told I need to suck it up and read these books. Finally, when I was in an adorable bookstore in Vermont, I found a Penguin Classics hardcover special edition, thought it was too beautiful to pass up, and started reading it. So now, without further adieu, my review:
REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Brief Summary: This is the story of Elizabeth Bennet. One of five daughters, she’s a little ahead of her time. Fiery and intelligent, she’s not one to be told what to do or what customs to abide by. The story begins as the handsome Mr. Bingley moves in nearby, and her meddling mother decides it’s time for her daughters to marry. The real story comes when Mr. Bingley falls for her sister, Jane, and Lizzy must contend with Bingley’s cold friend, Mr. Darcy.
Most Memorable Line(s): “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” (Was there really any other choice?)
So now that I’ve confessed that I was out of high school AND college before I picked up one of the most popular novels of all time, I also have to confess that I loved it. Reading Jane Austen, as you can imagine, is incredibly different from reading someone like Gillian Flynn (who I reviewed last week). It certainly took a little bit to get used to the writing style. It’s interesting, reviewing this book after last week. Austen’s writing, clearly, is timeless; we’re still reading and loving (and adapting!) her novels, but her scenery and time of the novel are clear as day. Living in modern times, it was a little hard to understand her world at first. But Lizzy is so, so incredibly far ahead of that time. She values her intelligence and her sisters more than she cares for society and marriage; she is completely opposite from her mother and some of her sisters. In some ways, Lizzy is the most complete character I’ve read all year. The book is not written in first person, but it mostly focuses on Lizzy’s mind, though it does stray at times. Witty and kind, Lizzy almost solely focuses on her sister Jane’s happiness. And what of Jane? While wild, boy-crazy Lydia (the youngest of the 5) is pitted as Lizzy’s opposite (getting the family into all sorts of trouble), Jane is Lizzy’s closest confidant, and also her most similar at the core. The two are incredibly selfless, but Jane lacks the ambition and curiosity that shines in Lizzy. It’s only fitting that Bingley, a nice, handsome man, is the one slated for Jane’s affections, while Darcy – who we see as cold and arrogant to start – ends up fighting for Lizzy’s love. Why? Because Lizzy has literally no time for the romantic nonsense that Bingley and Jane endure. Coming from a hopeless romantic like me, this says a lot, I think. Really, the strength of this novel lies in the constantly shifting and changing views of love not only by Lizzy, but by everyone. Jane goes through heartache, but keeps her pure heart and that leads her to happiness. Lizzy, who rebukes love and marriage, watches her best friend marry her own would-be suitor (and cousin, which I’m allowing to stand because of time and population differences) and ultimately allows herself to see the good in others and find her own life – rather than the one her mother lays out for her.
At the end of the day, this novel is well worth the read. It’s witty, heartbreaking, scandalous, and shows that people are not always who they seem. If you haven’t read it, you should 🙂