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Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

04 Jul

oxford-pride-and-prejudice

It us a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the beliefs or views of such a man may be, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.

When this landed on my doormat, I was understandably a little bit reticent, for although it is rightly regarded as a classic, me, being a bloke, was under the impression that this novel would be a whiney, feelings fest, with women harping on about shoes and dresses and men going all docile over a glimpse of bodice.

I let the stereotypes influence me and I’m sad to say I broke the cardinal rule of cliché fans everywhere…I judged a book by its cover. Admittedly it’s not one to set the pulses racing but nevertheless for fear of some sort of imagined retribution I started this with an already weary heart.

(I assume the classic plot needs no introduction as it has been rehashed so many times, so I will jump straight in…)

It was at page 22 that it occurred to me that this was going to be a great book and that I had been a bit foolish in my original mindset.  Yet it was earlier, at around page five that I realised I had overlooked this and so many other potentially great books because of my own ignorance and, dare I say it, prejudice?  Disregarding any semblance of pride I had at this point, I plunged on and discovered a razor-sharp satire, wonderfully drawn characters and some talk about hats.

From the off, there is perfectly balanced blend of tightly written intertwining narratives, with cutting swipes at the ridiculous and at times absurd rules of the class and social structure of the time.  It’s all very arch in its humour but in such a gentle way that you can’t help but notice all the clever nuanced jibes that Austen liberally sprinkles in.

I found the prose to be structured like a dance would be, each character participating in a swirling, pursuing, lingering rush of partings and greetings.  This intimate battle of the sexes tenderly pushes the boundaries of decorum, protocol and, well for want of a better word hormones.

As well as the main ‘will they/won’t they’ storyline of Lizzy Bennett and Mr Darcy, there are plenty of other fun and fascinating characters to draw your attention and I did become subsumed in following their stories whilst retaining my appetite for the core narrative.  Apart from depth, the story is also rich in verve and sagacity, making this a true celebration of words..

The frivolity of some of the wonderfully drawn characters is finely counterbalanced by the wit of others and Austen is always looking to make the reader judge on the basis of what you know, so the slow unfurling of Mr Darcy’s back story is a key plot point and makes you realise how wrong you have been in judging some of the characters through the evidence of what you have heard about them and then seen as a result of this bias.

This, though is counteracted by some of the most blatantly transparent characters in English literature.  Although you don’t ever entirely judge them once you realise how wrong you have been about other players in this affable promenade.  It does chasten somewhat to find that I fell into the trap of doing what I hate to see others do in the ‘real’ (non book) world.

The prose is finely written with wonderfully crafted ripostes and quotes aplenty, with its great mix of enmeshed stories that range from the conceited to the confused, yet always remaining fascinating, it’s a very readable and moreish recipe.  Pride and Prejudice definitely deserves its place as a true great and criminally came only second in the BBC’s Big read of 2003 poll of the UK’s best loved book (runner-up to Lord of the Rings) but that is a rant for another day.

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41 Comments

Posted by on 04/07/2013 in Classics

 

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41 responses to “Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

  1. Alastair

    04/07/2013 at 15:44

    I am glad that you have reviewed this as I am reading it at the moment. I was – as you were – reticent to read it due to the films that have been created from it and the “Oh Mr Darcy” that every one mentions. I found by page 3 that it was a remarkably easy read. The way that Austen says “says he” or “says she” is a new one to me. I am currently on Chapter 4, which my Kindle says is page 8. You may want to mention that this is free on the Kindle at the moment as well.

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    • StetotheJ

      04/07/2013 at 15:52

      It isn’t the quintessential man’s read but as something different from yours and my usual fodder, it is refreshing. You’re right to much is made of all the romance and it comes across to anyone who hasn’t read it as a bit of light fluff of no consequence, which is really unfair. However it does have the power to draw everyone in once they take the plunge. Free! That is a bargain of the highest proportions!

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      • Alastair

        04/07/2013 at 16:39

        It is. All of Austen’s are free at the moment. I do plan on buying the zombie version after I have read this one

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        • StetotheJ

          04/07/2013 at 16:53

          If only I had a liking for the mechanical monster that is the Kindle…I’m way to traditional for even freebies to tempt me. As for the Zombie one, I have heard mixed reviews…it tends to polarise opinion in the extreme.

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          • Alastair

            04/07/2013 at 17:26

            Being as that is also my genre, I may fun reading it.

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  2. shadowoperator

    04/07/2013 at 16:41

    Thank you for being able to see that Jane Austen, a woman (and a maiden aunt at that, whom one would assume might croon and carry on over romance) really almost has a sort of so-called “masculine” satirical ability aimed at the marriage traditions and mores of ye merry olde Engelonde. I simply don’t know why more men don’t see that she often finds the billings and cooings of the sentimental courtship novel ridiculous, and only gives a moderately happy ending to her characters because she is a practical realist, and understands that in order to get her readers to swallow the pill of her satirical remarks, she has to provide the comedic “spoonful of sugar” to go along with it.

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    • StetotheJ

      04/07/2013 at 16:51

      The perceived appeal of P&P tends to be aimed at women, I blame Hollywood more than anything for that. If there were more people willing to point out how good an author she was then it wouldn’t be so bad but until that happens we are stuck with the cheesy rom-com cliché which is so detrimental to her would be male readership.

      Thoroughly enjoyable as it was, I will be advocating it to all male readers who have even a hint of curiosity and an open mind. You have a more indepth knowledge of Austen than I, so I bow to your knowledge and will read some of her other works as well, Northanger Abbey sounds like a good place to start.

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      • shadowoperator

        04/07/2013 at 21:55

        Ah, yes, Northanger Abbey is Austen again at the top of her satiric form, only this time she’s making fun of the conventions of the Gothic mystery-romance. It’s practically a handbook on the tricks and turns to employ when writing one (though she makes fun of the tricks and turns, as you might suspect). Happy reading!

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        • StetotheJ

          06/07/2013 at 18:06

          Ha! Awesome, it was between that and Mansfield Park…I was leaning towards Northanger Abbey, mainly as an excuse to read more Gothic literature, now I am totally sold on it.

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  3. readinpleasure

    04/07/2013 at 18:26

    Great review. I’m supposed to be reading it as my Classic spin number/book. The kindle copy I have is not moving fast at all. I’ve got to snap out of it and finish it soon. 🙂

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    • StetotheJ

      06/07/2013 at 17:58

      It took me a good five or so weeks to read it as well. Not sure why, it’s fairly short and has a decent pace to it. Just think of all the other books on your list you have to look forward to, that will help get you through.

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  4. sakuraandme

    05/07/2013 at 04:32

    As well known as this book is, it’s never appealed to me. Hmmm, maybe I should cheat and get the movie out. Is it worthy of popcorn? Lol Maybe I like to much action and suspense. Even though I’m a girly girl…I don’t like girly/chick flick movies. Still, now I’m curious maybe I will just see it. Have a great weekend. Hugs Paula xx

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    • StetotheJ

      06/07/2013 at 17:39

      If you get the film/well mini series the 1995 version is the closest to the book, I believe. I’m with you on the action and suspense though, I love a good explosion and dramatic to the wire climaxes. Although I love all the old Disney cartoons as well. Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone being my top three.

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      • sakuraandme

        07/07/2013 at 08:35

        Hey, Don’t leave me out of Disney!! Lol I love kids movies. Haha xx

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        • StetotheJ

          07/07/2013 at 17:09

          Haha, all are welcome in the Disney crew…especially if a sing-a-longis in the offing.

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    • Lyn

      06/07/2013 at 21:28

      Paula, I almost had an attack of the vapours when you said you’d never seen P&P 🙂 You had me reaching for my smelling salts. Yes, do watch it and make sure it’s the version with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Then you will understand why millions (yes, millions) of girls/women go ga-ga at the mention of Mr Darcy and the lake scene 😉

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  5. gargoylebruce

    05/07/2013 at 05:15

    Mr Bennett is a crackingly good character I think. I always enjoyed his little nuggets of gold dialogue.

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    • StetotheJ

      06/07/2013 at 16:45

      Him and Mrs B should have got a sit-com, it would have gone down a storm. He does have some witty lines that are of course completely wasted on the missus.

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  6. LuAnn

    06/07/2013 at 18:26

    It was interesting to read a review from you after I had already read the book. I must admit to missing out on some of the nuances that you addressed when I read this many years ago. If I didn’t already have so many books on my list, I might pick this one up again. Great review Ste J.

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    • StetotheJ

      06/07/2013 at 18:43

      I probably missed a load of stuff that I should have included as well. The review was half done a month or so ago and it resurfaced near the top of my to publish pile so it pushed me to finish it. Lesson learned methinks. The bane of a book fans life so many great books to reread on top of so many awesome new ones…it’s a tough life.

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      • LuAnn

        07/07/2013 at 12:30

        I must say again that I am so thankful to have found your blog. You have enriched my reading experience with your reviews. 🙂

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        • StetotheJ

          07/07/2013 at 17:15

          Plenty more to come as always. Recently I have found my stride again, something I have been lacking since January, so with two books read in eight days I am well and truly in the mix to bring you lots of eclectic books for your pleasure and amusement.

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  7. Lyn

    06/07/2013 at 21:34

    I am mightily impressed Ste J, that you have read and enjoyed P&P. I love Austin’s style of writing, it’s so…delicious!

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    • StetotheJ

      07/07/2013 at 17:12

      It is that, it’s such a witty and clever book. I will be in the van guard of men who encourage others of the same sex to give it a go. I do love my words and it kept me captivated and happy throughout. I enjoyed the conversation about hats the most.

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  8. Christina ~

    07/07/2013 at 19:54

    Ah….my beloved Pride and Prejudice….oh yes! Mr. Darcy and the lake scene….fav by women everywhere!!! You do this most cherished book of mine the highest honor it deserves. I give Jane Austen credit for my sanity…all her books, this one in particular saw me through some of the toughest times. Thank you so much for this review…on many levels you have successfully expressed the essence of this…a multi-layered and oft dismissed book. If I could choose any book to live in…it is this one. One day I shall indeed visit Derbyshire for it is the finest of all the counties…

    Perhaps after Northanger Abbey….if you aren’t then compelled to read The Mysteries of Udolpho….Mansfield Park? xxxx

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    • StetotheJ

      07/07/2013 at 20:06

      I have been tempted to go on a Gothic tangent for a while with Vathek, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Castle of Otranto, The Monk etc. I am sure that I shall read more Austen soon, your influence was enough to get me into P&P so I have no doubt that you can get me to read some more lol.

      I live just up the road from Dar-ba-sha so get yourself over here! It was great to experience your (then) favourite book and do a review to do it justice which wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought, mainly because there is much to praise in its pages. I shall leave you to your lake scene though…

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      • Christina ~

        07/07/2013 at 20:11

        LOL Leave me to my lake scene….Oh…never have I loathed not having a passport more than right now! To truly see Dar-ba-sha…and with such perfectly amiable company as yours…tis enough to make a girl swoon… xxxx

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        • StetotheJ

          07/07/2013 at 20:21

          When I throw myself into a lake and then stumble out, my glasses all covered in water, then you will possibly be swooning, lol! You could walk around a room a lot as well and call it the best of exercise. xxxx

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  9. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    09/07/2013 at 01:20

    I was just not a fan of this book! I was bored out of my mind. But it’s a classic, so I’m glad I accomplished the task of reading it!

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    • StetotheJ

      09/07/2013 at 19:00

      I’m impressed you stuck with it if it bored you, you have more perseverance, or should that be tolerance than me,I would recommend not attempting Moby Dick if you wish to finish something that may bore you.

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  10. 최다해 gongjumonica

    09/07/2013 at 09:54

    I’m afraid that like you, I was also filled with prejudice when I started the book. It was surprising that I kind of liked it in the end. I just dont get it while a lot of women swoon over Darcy.

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    • StetotheJ

      09/07/2013 at 19:05

      Glad you liked it, it’s an important lesson to not approach things with an opinion already, although I hate to think I am preaching on that subject. I think the film from the 90’s with Colin Firth may answer your question to that…at least that is the vibe I’m getting from the ladies around here.

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      • anna amundsen

        10/07/2013 at 10:58

        I had to add a comment here 🙂 It is not because of Colin Firth’s wet shirt women swoon over Darcy (although it does add to his appeal) but rather because he is, first and foremost, a gentleman, he is intelligent, educated, a person of high moral values and sense of responsibility.. Well, you have read the book, you know how he is.. His character (and I’m talking after Elisabeth’s refusal) is what women see as ideal.. Not to mention that he has a huge library and knows how to dance. 🙂

        By the way, Ste J, I just recently stumbled upon your blog and I’m loving it. Looking forward to new posts. Greetings

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        • Ste J

          10/07/2013 at 18:32

          Welcome and good day to you! If only I could dance then I would be the perfect catch….unless my clearly oversized ego got in the way of course, ha!

          Glad you are enjoying what you read, I, shall be making myself comfortable on your blog as well, like a nice guest and not a sqautter. The next post should be up tomorrow if I have my way, which I should have..as it is mine.

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          • anna amundsen

            14/07/2013 at 09:11

            There’s always room for self-improvement if one’s willing.. And, on the other hand, there are (not always but often) side ways..

            You’re most welcome to my blog. A cup of tea and lemon balm cookie?

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            • Ste J

              16/07/2013 at 16:04

              Don’t mind if I do, thanks very much…

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