Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
This is a book I had started half a dozen times but never finished before. I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg so that I could help test the Kindle that we bought for Tim’s parents and somehow wound up reading the whole thing, finally!
My previous attempts at this book were thwarted by the detached, stuffy manner of the storytelling. I read recently that Jane Austen wrote all her books in secret while in a drawing room full of family and other guests, so she naturally turned to the type of drama that is played out in a drawing room. And that is certainly true. She turns a certain studious eye and ironic wit on her subject and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud on occasion.
As a lover of the 1990s BBC retelling of this story starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, it was hard to be indifferent to the love stories that were playing out or the comedy of some of the characters, however I still can’t say that I greatly liked this book. Austen never really gets under the skin of anyone and, though she hints that the social niceties being followed are silly or pointless, they are never truly thwarted.
I was surprised to find, despite this being a dialogue-heavy novel, that some of the most important moments are not told in enough detail. For instance, when Lizzie finally confesses her love to Darcy or when she tells her father of her love for Darcy, Austen does not actually give us the words Lizzie uses or hears in return, which I found deeply dissatisfying. Nor is there even one single kiss, and the only embraces are between friends and family. But there is a slightly odd final chapter summarising the next few years of everyone’s lives, giving the novel a feeling of not having a proper solid ending.
I know that a lot of people out there love this book and will wholeheartedly disagree with me. I should also say that I have read a couple of Austen’s other books and enjoyed them (though still not loved them). I recognise that Austen had great talent, intelligence and wit. Her style, however, is not one that I particularly enjoy.
First published in 1813.