Confession time: I call myself a fan of Jane Austen, but I’d never actually read Pride and Prejudice. Sure, I’ve seen many film adaptations, some more faithful to the text than others (hi, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!) but I’d never read it. I figured if I was doing all this reading, and wanted to call myself an Austen fan, I’d better do something about that.
Long story short: I love this book. Austen was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Her characters are funny, witty, clever, and determined. Lizzy Bennet is a classic Austen heroine, and her sisters make excellent characters as well. All of the characters in Pride and Prejudice are amazingly written and given unique characters. Even those who make very minor side characters seem to be fully imagined and fleshed out. Sure, there’s a fair few unlikeable characters in this — sorry, but I’ll never like Wickham — but even these are great characters to read. As a reader who prefers character to plot, the hallmark of many of my favourite authors is an ability to write interesting, somewhat sympathetic villains, insofar as they are villains. Austen really nails this.
I’m sure everyone is somewhat familiar with the plot, but just in case you’ve somehow missed all the films, and the films inspired by the story, here’s a basic overview. Girl (Lizzy) meets boy (Mr. Darcy) and they hate each other! Woo! Over time, and past a few other flirtations/proposals, Lizzy and Mr Bennet overcome their initial feelings about one another, correct their wrongs, and finally fall in love. Cute, right? Basically, Darcy’s problem is pride. He thinks he’s above the Bennet family, and looks down on Lizzy’s parents and younger sisters. Lizzy’s problem is prejudice: it takes her a long time to get past her initial impression of Darcy (though, in her defence, she had a right to be angry), and accept his proposal. It doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking today, but honestly, in the 1800s, a young woman like Lizzy turning down multiple proposals would’ve been a pretty big scandal.
I remember taking a while to get into Persuasion, one of Austen’s later novels, when I read it a while ago. I figured I’d have the same with Pride and Prejudice: I don’t often read books from this era, so the style often takes me a while. However, I didn’t have an issue at all, mostly because of the strength of the characters (and already knowing the plot helps…). If you’re a reader who feels intimidated by older texts because of the old-fashioned language and writing style, I’d really advise you to put aside your prejduce (wink wink) and give this a go. Austen was writing for the masses, so her style is pretty straightforward, and for the most part remains so. It will take a bit of adjusting if you really aren’t used to it, but I think if you have an idea of the plot you’ll have no problems.
A complaint many people have about classics, particularly realist novels like Austen’s, is that they’re boring. Sorry but if you’re one of those people, you’re wrong. Sure, nothing wildly unexpected happens, but novels like this really give you a chance to live with these characters for a while, and get an insight into what society was like in the time they were written. Also, I would argue that this book is packed with enough romance and proposals and dances and scandals and disputes that it couldn’t be called boring. There’s so many side-plots and minor characters popping up in this that it never has to feel dull or repetitive. The book is just paced so well! There’s always enough going on to keep the reader gripped, while teasing the bigger plot points to come. Lizzy running into Darcy everywhere she goes? Sign me up. Jane pining over Bingley, while Lizzy tries to get to the bottom of his sudden disappearance? Yes please. Honestly, out of all the male characters in this book, I don’t understand why Bingley doesn’t get more attention. He’s a sweetheart, and never acts like a massive jerk (unlike Darcy). Still, I totally understand the obsession with Darcy (insert Colin Firth gif here. Firth is my Darcy and this is a hill I will die on).
I’m not sure how much more I can gush about this book before it becomes unbearable, so I’ll cut myself off there. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, this book has definitely become one of my favourites. If I do a 2020 Favourites Wrap Up at the end of the year, expect to see this book mentioned! And please do yourself (and me) a favour if you’ve not read it and go and get a copy! Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Rating: 5 stars.