Sunday, May 22, 2011

Love Is Remarkably Easy to Mistake As Hate: A Review of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austin
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics (2003)
Pages: 392 (but for the record I'm saying it's 320 just so that my page total here and on GoodReads matches)
How I Came By This Book: I don't remember when I first read Pride and Prejudice but the copy that I own came to me as a birthday present from a friend. She knew that I loved the book but didn't own a copy and so she surprised me with it about four years ago (gods, is it really that long?).
Challenges: Read Me Baby, One More Time Challenge; GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge

Synopsis: "It is a truth universally known, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Thus memorably begins Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, one of the world's most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice--Austen's own "darling child"--tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships know to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.

Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as "irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."

Review: Okay, so, wow. Um, not really sure what to say after that glowing synopsis up there. Way to go, Barnes and Noble. Now I have nothing to write.

I'm kidding, of course, but I agree with everything said above. This being the third or fourth time I've reread this novel, it's obviously high on my list of favorites. There are some novels that can only be reread once, maybe twice, before they get old. I'm pretty sure that I'll be rereading this book every few years for the rest of my life.

NOTE: There are spoilers below, but I'm going to make a guess and say that most of you have either read this book, seen one of the film adaptations or, at the very least, have read and/or watched Bridget Jones' Diary and are aware of the end result. If none of these is applicable to you, then what the heck have you been wasting your time doing? Go and read this novel now. Seriously, you'll thank me.

Sorry, honey, but you are no 
Elizabeth Bennet.

The story is fairly simple. The Bennets, a family of some, but not much, wealth, are finding it hard to marry off their five daughters because of their considerable lack of funding. The problem is that Mr. Bennet has no male heir and therefore their home will be inherited by his insufferable cousin, Mr. Collins, upon his death. This makes his wife, who is one of my least favorite characters in all of literature by the way, severely nervous to the point of being an incredible bore who is ready to foist her girls off on the first man who even looks at them. Jane, sweet and serene; Elizabeth, stubborn and independent; and Mary, bookish and shy, are in no real hurry to get married. Lydia, young and foolish, and Kitty, silly and impressionable, are trying to find a husband among the officers in the militia who are staying nearby. All of this causes considerable worry to their mother, but their father is pretty indifferent to the whole thing.

Early on, Jane catches the eye of the amazing Mr. Bingley, while Elizabeth finds herself an object of derision for the proud Mr. Dary. Throughout the novel these two women will go through no shortage of trouble on their way to a happy ending with their respective beaus, while the rest of the family runs into no shortage of trouble due to dull cousins and a runaway daughter. The book is exceptionally funny, well-written, and shows incredible skill in the oh-so-young Jane Austen.

The characters are, I think, the strongest part of this novel. From the prejudiced Elizabeth, to the dastardly Mr. Wickham, to the delightful Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Austen creates a cast of characters that are so memorable and likable (with the exception of Mrs. Bennet), that it's hard not to fall in love with this book every time you read it. It is a testament to Ms. Austen that it is not only women that enjoy this book, but men as well. I know that I'm not the only guy who repeatedly loses himself in Austen's novels, although I may be one of the only ones who shouts from the proverbial rooftop that is my blog.

I think secretly most men wish they could be as awesome
as Fitzwilliam Darcy. I, however, make no secret of it.

The dialogue is strong, witty, and full of complexity. There are hidden meanings behind much of what these characters say to each other, although some of them are bold enough, like Lady Catherine, to come right out and say whatever they mean to say. The plot is engaging and the inevitable romance between Elizabeth and Darcy is so well-strung-out that, instead of being tedious, it is fun to watch them slowly come together as a couple. The whole novel is also so chaste that it is almost incredible to see the differences between romance novels today and this novel, which I believe to be the epitome of romantic. The two main characters are never even seen to kiss! Don't get me wrong, I'm not against sex or its use in literature and film (I'm only human, after all), but sometimes it's nice to just dive into a novel in which love takes a considerable amount of time and things aren't so focused on the, uh, "big finish."

This is one of those novels that I recommend to everyone. Of course, most of the people I suggest it to have already read it, but for those of you haven't, please do. Even if those of you who haven't read it didn't heed my warning about spoilers, knowing the end of the novel in NO WAY detracts from the experience. In fact, I think it makes the novel even better.

Pride and Prejudice is obviously getting five out of five Gabriels.



  1. Ha! This is one of the books that I'll be reading for your challenge so I'm going to read your review later, after I've already indulged myself in rereading it.

  2. I loved the BBC adaptation (mmmm Colin Firth) but when I tried to read it I could barely keep my eyes open 5 pages in! I haven't tried since but I'm about to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and if I enjoy that I think i'll go back and give it a go. It's one of those books I feel like I really should like...

  3. Great review. This is definitely a book I could never get bored of reading over again. I love all the characters, even the horrible ones. I never tire of laughing at Mr Collins and the rediculous Mrs Bennett. I even have a chuckle at Lady Catherine when Elizabeth has the audacity to go against her wishes. I love that scene.

  4. I absolutely love Pride and Prejudice. Austen's writing is absolutely beautiful, but also really easy to read which isn't always the case with some older books. I'm also in agreement with you about the characters. They are so well written that you can't help but feel emotionally attached to them no matter whether you love or hate them.

    Have you read any of her other novels? I'm always afraid that none of them will live up to Pride and Prejudice, so I've pretty much avoided picking any of them up so far.

  5. Satia: I do that, too. I don't like reading reviews for things I'm going to read in case my thoughts get influenced somehow.

    Kayleigh: Colin Firth is probably the coolest person on the planet. :) I have books like that, too. There have been a few that I've really wanted to read but I just couldn't get into them. I hope someday you finally do read it because it really is worth it.

    Karen: Thanks. Lady Catherine is hilarious. I can't help but relish how mean and nosy she is. I think my favorite part is when she's at the Bennet's house and she starts peeking into rooms at random and declares them to be passable.

    Hannah: Agreed. She's very readable. I've read Emma, which was incredible, and I read Northanger Abbey, which was okay. I'm slated to read Sense and Sensibility for the for the first time for a challenge that I'm hosting, so there'll be a review of that up sometime in the next seven-ish months.