Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My rating: 9/10
One Sentence Verdict: Witty and engaging, this commentary on social behaviours and human nature may be Austen’s best work
I really loved Pride and Prejudice. I might be the only person on this earth who hasn’t seen a movie adaptation of it, but I’ve seen bits and pieces, though I don’t think I’ve ever read the book properly before. As I’ve said previously, I used to find classics a little tiresome; perhaps it’s the language used which makes them a little detached and more difficult to read than contemporary works, but recently I’ve started to love them.
Elizabeth Bennet is an instantly likeable character. Her family life is turned upside down when a wealthy young man, Mr Bingley, moves into the village where she lives with her parents and four sisters, Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty. Her parents, especially her mother, are eager to get to know their new neighbour; after all, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The sisters meet Mr Bingley and his handsome, but arrogant and disagreeable friend, Mr Darcy, who snubs Elizabeth (Lizzy) at their first meeting.
Bingley and Lizzy’s eldest sister, Jane, fall in love, much to the delight of Lizzy’s mother, but all is not rosy on the horizon. Urged on my Mr Darcy, Bingley leaves for the London, with Jane bereft and unaware of what led him to leave so hastily when everyone believed they would be soon wed. Lizzy’s further encounters with Mr Darcy, as she seems unable to fulfil her promise of having nothing more to do with him, see her opinion of him change, and his towards her, quite dramatically.
The book is something of a satire on the behaviour and relationships of middle and upper class country people in Austen’s day, and some of the most amusing content is provided by more minor characters, such as Mr Collins, a cousin who proposes marriage to Lizzy but is repeatedly turned down, before he marries her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, much to the chagrin of Mrs Bennet. Lizzy’s younger sister Lydia, and her elopement with a soldier, George Wickham, also makes for much of the drama in the book, and highlights the views
Lizzy is sharply clever and independent with an acerbic wit which makes her frosty interactions with Mr Darcy quite hilarious to read; she is more than capable of holding her own against him and as she is exceedingly stubborn, she refuses to be bested! The only time she is left without words is perhaps at Mr Darcy’s shock revelation of his feelings later in the novel, and even then she does not remain speechless for long.
Darcy, on his part, turns from a very disagreeable person to one we are all rooting for. Everyone in Lizzy’s family seems to be against him at the start, even the good-natured Jane, so it’s a bit of a challenge for Lizzy to change their feelings about him at the end of Pride and Prejudice when (SPOILER!!) they announce their engagement. Despite being quite arrogant, Darcy is a good-hearted man, and Lizzy’s visit to his country home reveals that nearly everyone he employs thinks well of him, as well as his younger sister, Georgiana.
The plot is wonderfully thought out; side stories are woven in seamlessly and although the ending is happy (spoiler – everyone gets married), it doesn’t feel corny or forced at all. Jane Austen was an amazing writer, and I think that this is the author at her very best.
I’m going to hold my hand up to being an ardent fan of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube, so I won’t deny that it was the faces of those actors I had in my head as I was reading. I’d recommend that to everyone, on a side note, as it’s brilliantly made and adapts the source material masterfully. I was a bit late on the LBD train as I only really got into it last year – then watched it all in one go, of course! I really love the modern “vlog” style adaptations of classic works; another great one is “Nothing Much To Do”, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Honourable mentions to “Emma Approved”, “Frankenstein MD” and “Jules and Monty”. They’re all fab. You will laugh until you cry.
I’m straying off topic again. Whoops. I’ll wrap this one up by saying that Pride and Prejudice is a MUST READ, even if you’re not generally that fond of classics. In fact, if you don’t like them usually, I’d say this is a great place to start because the plot is so engaging and the characters so easy to relate to, that it’s easy to get absorbed quickly; you won’t want to put this one down!