Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: ‘Regency Romance’
Synopsis (a bad one by me because I couldn’t find a better one):
The second eldest of five sisters in the 1790s, Elizabeth Bennet has to cope with the wilful eccentricities of her father, the oblivious tastelessness of her mother and the caprices of her younger sisters. She is also confronted by the reality of being a woman of little fortune in a world where eligibility and survival is founded on securing a man with thousands of pounds a year. When the affable Mr Bingley (4 or 5 thousand a year and probably more!) comes to live at a neighbouring estate of Netherfield, he brings with him the insufferably proud Mr Darcy (10000 a year). Though Elizabeth’s ill opinion of this haughty, unpleasant man is formed at once, events seem determined to force her and Darcy repeatedly into each other’s company.
I first experienced Pride and Prejudice as an abridged Audio book when I was 10 and remembered thoroughly enjoying it (and feeling very grown up!); I recently watched the 1995 BBC adaptation and became captivated again. A couple of months ago, I re-read another Austen novel (Mansfield Park) for a module at university and realised that I’d never actually read the others in their original, unabridged form.
As a student of English literature, I’d like to be able to be a rebel and say I’m not in love with Jane Austen’s work and pride and Prejudice in particular. But I can’t lie. The richness and sparkling quality of the prose was a treat throughout. Her razor sharp characterisations are hilarious. Lizzy and Darcy are frustrating and compelling by turns but I found the other Bennets and their entire social circle (as well as that of Mr Darcy) equally as entertaining. Even though we have ‘protagonists’, everyone in an Austen book is there for a reason and given their own moments in the spotlight. This is always called a romance novel but for me it’s so much more: it’s a study of society. Austen also layers her satire so cleverly that sometimes you can’t be sure whether she’s making fun of one thing or something entirely different. Her descriptions (particularly of the landscape) are beautiful but also very simple and sparse: she gives you enough that your imagination automatically supplies the rest. Whoever abridged my audio books did a great job-there wasn’t a moment I felt I’d missed out on plot-wise, though it was great to properly appreciate the cleverness of Austen’s language in its original form.
The only con (if you can really call it that) is that as a modern reader, sometimes you have to read a sentence once or twice to work out what Austen is actually saying. This book requires your whole attention and certainly benefits from being read in long sittings.