Review: Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
original publication: 1813
size: 258KB (477 pages)
categories: fiction classics
simultaneous device licenses: unlimited
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
real page numbers: no
“Is not general incivility the very essence of love?”
Note: the edition above is not the edition I used. I wanted to listen to it with text-to-speech on my Kindle Fire, which meant using a version in text format which I got from Project Gutenberg. The content should be the same, though.
Note: I recognize that this is a classic, and has been popular for nearly two hundred years. However, I am choosing to review it as though it was any other book I have read…while I’m sure I can’t completely ignore my knowledge of its place in world literature, that should be largely external to my sense of it as a book. I also am going to follow my usual policy of avoiding spoilers…I don’t think there is any statute of limitations on that. This is not a literary analysis: it’s a review.
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is, quite simply, about people.
One could argue that all good books are ultimately about people (whether they contain spaceships with hyperdrive or magical fairies), but while there are events that happen here, it is mostly about relationships.
Since those relationships are primarily romantic ones, I don’t think calling the book a romance is inappropriate (although I suspect I just caused some English teachers to have conniption fits).
Fortunately, the main characters are very well drawn…intriguing, and realistic.
That’s especially true of Elizabeth Bennet. “Lizzie” seems to be in many ways very contemporary. In a time when women were supposed to behave in particular expected ways, Lizzie can scandalize by doing something we think would be perfectly natural. Her relationship with her father (who can be a difficult man), includes mutual respect. That is seen as unnatural by others, and even pooh-poohed.
Mr. Darcy could also exist in the modern world… thought of by many as brooding, rude, and unengaged.
These two are the heart of the book, and it beats strongly. We know right away that they “belong together”, but there are many obstacles in their paths…and not always ones that come from outside circumstances. For a more recent analogy, it’s like Ross and Rachel on Friends…they are complicated people, and mess things up through misunderstandings and ego. I have to admit, there were times when I was thinking, “Just get together already!”
There wasn’t any problem for me understanding the language, although I do read a lot of 19th Century books. I would not consider that at all a barrier for most readers. The attitudes, though, may be more challenging. For one thing, it seems to be the highest goal of social development to not show emotions. Like a room full of Vulcans, characters pride themselves on being able to discuss what should be very moving events dispassionately. Characters often struggle to suppress their feelings…and it only shows when their faces “color”.
Fortunately, that’s a futile aspiration, and their natures show through. If they didn’t, it would be much more difficult to be involved with the book.
Involved I was. There was one scene that was as frightening as anything I have ever read (and I include Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft in that). It wasn’t a horror scene: it was the way a person of privilege could completely ignore the feelings of someone who wasn’t as fortunate. No question, if the situation had been pushed, the less powerful person would have been forced to lead a false and unfulfilled life…and that was really scary. I think perhaps we were supposed to be amused, but it didn’t strike me that way at all.
There were times when it seemed a bit long, and there are a number of characters to follow. One thing that could get a bit tedious was lengthy sections told in the narrative third person…like a voiceover describing what was happening. Rather than having a character say something, we basically read, “So and so told such and such about this, and such and such responded with concern. So and so went on to defend…” and so on. Those sections may also contain scenic descriptions. I honestly could have used more dialog in those cases.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. I’m glad I read it, and recommend it to others…just don’t expect any vampires or international terrorist plots.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.