Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenPosted: January 19, 2013
I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s always a bit weird reading a book that you already know the story of, and I know this story extremely well because the 1995 BBC production got a lot of play in the Page household, to the extent that the music on our VHS copy warped due to overplaying, largely down to the fact that the women of the family were rather smitten with Mr Darcy as played by Colin Firth.
But aside from Firth’s inarguable appeal the draw was the story and characters, which are sensational.
So, I thought it was about time I got around to reading Austen’s most famous novel, 200 years after it was first published.
The story follows Elizabeth Bennet, a charming, clever and witty young lady and the second of 5 daughters. This situation means that with no male heir the estate will pass out of the family in the event of her father’s death, and so to their mother, Mrs Bennet it is vitally important to see her daughters married, and preferably married well.
The arrival of a wealthy new neighbour, Mr Bingley, attracts great speculation and hope from Mrs Bennet, which is rewarded when he develops an attraction to her eldest daughter Jane, a wonderfully nice and sweet girl, and regarded as a local beauty. With Bingley is his friend Darcy, who is less popular in the area due to his aloof manner and air of superiority. In particular he falls out of favour with Elizabeth having insulted her in her hearing and injuring her pride.
Darcy, however, begins to warm to her, something he attempts to repress due to her lowly connections and the behaviour of her family. Elizabeth’s distaste for him grows, particularly after she meets George Wickham, a charming and attractive officer in the local militia. Elizabeth is attracted to him, and he tells of his poor treatment at the hands of Darcy, which very quickly spreads through the neighbourhood.
Jane’s relationship stalls after Bingley leaves for London, and it appears that his sisters and Darcy may have had a hand in keeping them apart when she visited town.
Circumstances mean that Elizabeth and Darcy are thrown together more and more, and he can no longer resist and proposes, however, his proposal, in which he draws attention to the disadvantages of marrying her, offends Elizabeth and she refuses him. Following this, and a letter from him explaining his past behaviour, she begins to realize that she may have misjudged him and her feeling begin to change.
Has her response meant an end to his attraction, and will the scandalous behaviour of a relative ruin things for all of the family?
Doing these plot synopses during reviews is always the part I find the hardest, as it’s difficult to judge how much to leave out, but hopefully that was okay.
As with the Austen novels I’ve read before, one of the books’ selling points is Austen’s skill for creating great characters, and whether it’s her spirited heroine or her embarrassing relations, all of the characters feel painfully real and you sense that Austen was a keen observer of human behaviour, as she creates a world filled with amusing characters, who you can’t help but feel must have been based on real people.
Lizzy Bennet is a brilliant heroine, a spirited character and extremely likable. As the novel progresses she becomes more aware of her own failings regarding her own pride and bias. There’s a real intelligence and humour to the character, which easily explains why Darcy falls for her.
Darcy as well is a well written character, and while his cold shell takes a while to understand he’s definitely a well rounded character, and there’s this real sense of decency and nobility to the character which shines through, which explains why the central relationship blossoms and ensures that you’re rooting for them to get together.
It’s also part of a running theme in the book- the importance of choosing a partner you can live with. Elizabeth’s parents are a prime example of this, with Mr Bennet having married a pretty young woman who he has little respect for and their difference in temperament leads to both being exasperated with each other.
Similarly, there’s Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte who marries for financial reasons and because she is getting older, and there’s a sense that there is very little affection towards her husband.
But the main impression is of a well crafted, amusing comedy of manners and class, and there’s a great deal of comedy from embarrassing situations, particularly the mortifying behaviour of the other members of the Bennet family, especially the youngest two daughters and their mother, although Mr Bennet is not blameless in this either.
All in all, it’s a fantastic read and a brilliant romance.
Verdict: A great book, easy to see why this is Austen’s most famous novel. It’s wonderfully written, based around quite a charming love story and has a well observed, witty feel. Elizabeth Bennet is a brilliant protagonist and I warmed to several of the characters, a very captivating read. 10/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.