Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read P&P last way back in college for my senior seminar and although it's hard to believe, I haven't reread it until last week. Ah, it is just as lovely, witty, and brilliant as I remembered! And also, the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth movie version is about 98% faithful. (I watched it just a couple of days after I finished reading the book, and I've watched it so many times in the last few years that I remembered it very well as I was reading.)

I reread my old edition from college which was a Norton Critical Edition and I think that was a mistake. The underlining wasn't too distracting (but it was some) but the comments were very distracting (luckily there weren't many of them.) Plus, why carry around a book that's essentially twice as long as you plan to read? It would have been more enjoyable to read a copy that only had the novel and didn't have my 20-year-old comments.

All that said, Pride and Prejudice totally holds up. It is wonderful. Elizabeth is just as sharp, Darcy just as frustrating, and Kitty and Lydia just as ridiculous as ever. A few things I picked up on this time around was that before I had thought that Mr. Bennet, while very frustrated by Mrs. Bennet, did find her amusing and did find her to have compensations for her silliness (and her nerves). However, in my reread, I noticed more that he told Elizabeth that he'd hate for her not to respect her spouse, as he personally knows how miserable that is. Also, I thought he was - aside from his tactless remarks to stop Mary from playing all night at the ball at Netherfield - sensible and smart, but on the second reading, I find more than he too was silly for having been blinded by Mrs. Bennet's beauty in the first place and also by allowing her poor parenting of Kitty and Lydia, and by general laziness and lackadasicalness that was hard to respect.

I did love the little bits at the very end that explained a bit of what happened after the weddings: that Georgiana was at first shocked by Elizabeth's teasing Darcy but came to understand that is normal, that Kitty did shape up when separated from Lydia, things like that. Once thing I love about some old-fashioned books is how they often have an epilogue that tells you what happened to the characters after the end of the book. I know that's incredibly declasse these days, but I do enjoy it.

So, loved it! Hope I get around to rereading another Austen in 2013 (or maybe I'll read Lady Susan and the juvenelia and finally be able to say that I have read ALL of Austen's works.) Rereading can be such a luxurious, comforting thing. I should do it more. If only it didn't cut into the number of books I've never read before!

I bought this book at my campus bookstore 18 years ago.

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