Countless people have read this during their schooling, many more people have watched one of its multiple adaptations, and pretty much everyone has encountered one of the many spin-off characters and stories this book has inspired. So why have I not read this book till now?! Of Austen’s other work I have read Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and most recently Persuasion. I knew as soon as I joined The Classics Club that Pride and Prejudice would have to be my next Austen read.
Pride and Prejudice follows the life of Elizabeth Bennet the second of five daughters born to a country gentlemen. The Bennet family comprises of the foolish Mrs Bennet, the eccentric Mr Bennet, and their five daughters Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty), and Lydia. As the Bennet’s have no son their country estate will go to a distant male cousin, fretful her daughters will be left destitute Mrs Bennet has become obsessed with seeing them all well married. With Jane and Elizabeth being the eldest most of their mother’s attention is on them. It is through the eyes and experiences of Elizabeth and Jane that we are shown the complicated nature of society and of finding a husband during the Regency period. The catalyst that starts it all off is the arrival of the young, handsome, and wealthy Mr Bingley to their small community, who brings with him his handsome, wealthier, but not so agreeable friend Mr Darcy.
I have been on a comfort read mission recently after finishing off the delightful Georgian mystery The Deathly Portent I was keen to stay in the past and so reached for my ultimate comfort read author. Even though Austen’s work can often be quite heart-breaking there is always that moral cushion and lively characters to lift you up. My expectations were high as I picked up Pride and Prejudice for the first time, there was nothing to fear though I simply loved this book! After the opening lines I was pretty much hooked and would happily have not emerged until I had finished the whole book. Unfortunately work, eating, sleeping and so forth got in the way and did have to be parted from this charming tale a few times. I do find it funny how a book with very so little live action could be so gripping? I think the use of letters was one of the key elements to keeping the reader gripped, just as much as the characters who were waiting for news. It is a wonderful look into how frustrating it must have been waiting for important news without the aid of phones, mobiles, and the internet!
My classic reading seems to be taking somewhat of a theme as my last classic read was Little Women which followed the four March sisters while Pride and Prejudice of course follows the five Bennet sisters, however these sisters aren’t that much a like. For one I did not love all the Bennet sisters like I did the Marchs. The eldest sister Jane is kind, well-mannered, beautiful, and always see the best in others (sometimes too much). Elizabeth our main protagonist is attractive, witty, intelligent, but can suffer from her pride. Mary is rather plain and so makes up for it by being well read, intelligent, and multi-talented. Then we have the two youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia who are just as foolish as their mother, vain, silly, and selfish. As you can see I wasn’t a huge fan of the youngest sisters. I think Jane was probably my favourite sister, not that I didn’t love Elizabeth but I thought she had more faults to deal with during the book. By the end of the book I loved Elizabeth just as much as Jane.
There is of course also the love interests and potentials husbands to consider in Pride and Prejudice. I find I never found myself falling into the trap of adoring Mr Wickham and despising Mr Darcy like Elizabeth does. From the start I thought Mr Wickham was a bit impertinent, and while Mr Darcy was aloof he was much better mannered. If I’m honest I was rather more charmed by Mr Bingley who I thought was just as lovely as Jane. I won’t say anymore though otherwise I will have given it all away! Needless to say Elizabeth’s and your own opinions on the key men of this story go through continual evolution during your progress through this book.
Overall I thought that Pride and Prejudice was a wonderful tale of young women trying to find their way in the world, and I think it really is full of universal truths that do not change during the ages. This book is as relevant today as it was then. I highly recommend this novel to those who are also interested in working their way through the classics. Of Austen’s work I now only have Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park to read.