These days it seems like Jane Austen is everywhere, with all the rewrites of her books and the endless articles about Austen, her novels, and their influences on contemporary romance stories. Combine that with the fact that my desk is right next to my friend Kara's who is a bit of an Austen expert, I decided it was time for me to read a Jane Austen novel. Yes, I have to admit that I've never read anything by Jane Austen.
Based on an article on Salon.com, I decided to read Pride and Prejudice. The first half of the book had me worried. It was a little tedious and it took me a while to adjust to the historical language. But by the time I got to the second half of the book, and the story cut loose, I could hardly put it down. The second half owes much its excitement to the first half, which is the perfect set-up for the delightful machinations that make the ending so rewarding. Here are a few of the things I like about the book:
Letter writing. Pride and Prejudice made me want to write letters. I loved the fact that whole days were planned around the writing and reading of letters. Text messaging just doesn't create the same sense of anticipation that an old-fashioned, well-crafted letter can. And when those letters are filled with juicy gossip or expressions of young love, they become a perfect literary device to drive a plot forward.
Mrs. Bennett. This busy body reminds us all that sometimes when kids are mortally embarrassed by their parents, it's for a darn good reason. Her dialogue is some of the best and funniest in the book. I'm pushing a new colloquialism; "A Mrs. Bennett." As in, "My dad pulled a total Mrs. Bennett when he started dancing the robot at my birthday party."
The language of courtship. I regularly found myself charmed by the innocent conversations of Austen's courting couples. Although to a modern ear, the conversations are sometimes filled with innuendo that I doubt is the original intent. The book is packed with phrases that would make fantastic euphemisms. Let's just say that if I ever suggest we "take a turn in the garden," it won't involve a walk in the woods. With all the rewrites of Pride and Prejudice, I'm considering a version where I strategically insert the phrase "that's what she said" throughout the book.
Elizabeth. For a story that takes a decidedly antiquated attitude towards women's role in relationships and society, Elizabeth is an absolute powerhouse. Outspoken, independent, and smart, she's a character that I'd like to know. There's more than just a hint of early feminism in this story.
Pride and Prejudice gets a rating of Read It!