Pride and Prejudice
London, Everyman's Library, 1991, 368p
This month marks the bicentenary of the publication Pride and Prejudice, arguably the definition of the classic novel. Everyone knows the title, the characters and the plot. Everyone seems to have an opinion on it - whether you think it's the best literature ever written, or the origin of the trashy girly novel. And I think it deserves celebrating.
The Guardian kicked off the party with the 10 best Jane Austen characters (see also their other article about the bicentennial here). My own personal party began with rereading Pride and Prejudice - a novel I have read so often that I can't remember life before it. I first read it in my early teens. It was the kind of thing my mum was in to (she continues to watch period dramas almost every weekend); so, in wanting to emulate her, I embarked on a journey into fin de siecle England, and the mind of Miss Jane Austen.
I found myself in a world full of gowns and dancing, money and wealth, and where family dynamics were central to the plot. Social expectations were mocked or put on trial. Beauty came from within, and girls who exhibited sillyness were just ... silly. But, most quintessentially, it was a world where women were funny and intelligent, and men repeatedly made fools of themselves due to their inability to look beyond their own experience.
For a modern reader, the language may be a little challenging at first. But with a little effort, I found it fairly easy to get past the structure and form, to uncover the wonderful story beneath. And due to the complexity of some of the terminology, as I grow up and learn more, I find something new each time I reread.
Pride and Prejudice is not my favourite Jane Austen novel (see my previous rant about Persuasion), but it has such an incredibly strong cult following, from movies to modern interpretations to the insertion of zombies into the plot. Surely you should read it just so you know what everyone else is talking about!