Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college - really the mid-late 80's - I was one of those horrid people who knew everything about anything to do with books: a Lit Major. I recognize now, I was probably a big Pain in the Butt to people who were not avid readers, and to those who were, as I would argue critique til I won, or until one of us was blue in the face. I enthusiastically tried to convince non-readers of the joys of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I mean really, who doesn’t love a 19th century tome about someone who thinks he can get away with murder for the intellectual sport of it but suffers through psychological and moral self-torment until he is rescued by the love of the original hooker with a heart of gold? (double eye roll, from the then me to everyone else, and a bigger one from the now me to the twenty year old me)
How Pretentious. I'm glad that particular phase is over, but that in my life, I still am an avid reader and adore books of wide variety.
But back to the Dark Ages: I had taken every course in English Literature from Chaucer to the 18th century, everything in American 18th, 19th and 20th century, and everything in 19th century Russian literature, and a smattering of European modern and ancient authors. By the time I got to 19th century English literature, I was up to my eyeballs with the polite society of people holding teacups. And then I was required to read Jane Austen. I wearily opened Pride and Prejudice, and couldn’t make it to page 50 before throwing the book against the wall. My claim for many years was that if I had to read about another dang teacup I was going to start breaking things.
Well, here it is twenty odd years later, two movies, and who knows how many BBC productions of the book later. Many friends, who I consider to be intelligent, fun, and thoroughly modern women have insisted repeatedly what an excellent and favorite book it is of theirs. I absolutely must read it!
So, finally, I did. And it just so happens that my son about to enter high school has to read it for his Advanced English course this summer. Well, for his sake, I’m glad I did, so I can help him through the dense turn of the 19th century language of it. I’ve been rather steeped in the contemporary middle reader genre of late. P&P is a long way from Hoot. Heading back to that stuff after so long a break from it really took me forever to read. I mean, my eyeballs didn’t bleed or anything, but it just seemed I couldn’t get through more than a few pages at a time. Of course, I also had multiple distractions, as I started it after school let out for the boys, and of course I’m in constant toddler attendance.
I swore I would finally finish Pride and Prejudice, and I did. I slogged my way through it and can now add it to my list of ‘have reads’, which, I’ve found out recently is a rather long list compared to most people I know, so should be very proud of myself or admit what a geek I really am. It’s still a toss up, guess I’ll make that decision conversation by conversation. There is a BBC list floating around on the web of should have read classics, and I may have actually completed it and then some now. There is a similar Time magazine list, which I’ve also nearly completely, if not by now. Few books make it to both aside from Pride and Prejudice. But back to said book.
As much as the actual physical reading of it gave me some pains, I really did ultimately enjoy it. Not that Jane Austen needs any help from my review, as it is required reading in both high school and colleges now. And she's dead anyway and would not benefit from the book sales.
The characters are lively. Elizabeth and Darcy are well-suited to each other as they are, in fact, seemingly so unwell-suited. Each’s strength to each’s weakness is a good counterbalance. They each need a good challenge, and get it in each other. The rest of the cast is really entertaining and thoroughly real in their riduculousness. The plot regularly thickens. While so much seems stuck in the time, it is a thoroughly timeless and modern tale. Every romantic comedy in the theater takes its core cue from good ol’ -2oo year old to be accurate - P&P. Here’s a partial character list: sassy lead female, reluctant lead male, the ridiculous and greedy mother, the chuckling father who’d rather be done with all this nonsense for all five of his daughters so he can be left to his library, his hunting and fishing. The silly sisters, best friends, the nemesises, et al.
So, if you have so far managed to avoid it, I highly recommend it. That is no feint praise. And honestly, nary is a teacup in sight.