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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

October 4, 2012

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

Why have I landed on this book, now? A few reasons. One, it’s one of those classic books that you always promise yourself that you’ll read (but never do). Two, my girlfriend adores Austen and I want to know what all the fuss with this chick-lit is. Three, ICSM Drama are putting on Pride and Prejudice next year and I want to be well-versed in the work before auditions and rehearsals. So, in total, a sum of self-improving and self-motivated reasons.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, focusses on Elizabeth, the second daughter of the Bennet family of Longbourne. Through a burgeoning mutual attraction between her elder sister, Jane, and Mr Bingley, an eligible bachelor new to the neighbourhood, she is introduced to the aloof and proud Mr Darcy. Finding him intolerable (and him finding her wilful and uncivil), she declares an immediate dislike of him. However, over time, as their social circles intersect and interact, they find that they’re feelings and impressions begin to change.

But we all knew that already, right? (Admittedly, I was ingorant on a few of the details)

The writing is complex and irritating in places. If I submitted this as an English assignment, there would be red pen all across the page. Austen is guilty of double negatives, overly long sentences and speech unchained to characters but I can’t tell if that is how people used to talk back then, how people of their class used to speak or a peccadillo of Austen herself. I sense the difference of two hundred years at work here.

However, despite my frustration at the over-complicated address, the book is still highly engaging. I don’t know if I could call it pacy, as, for the majority, the characters rotate between a series of balls, dinners and travel. Life was hard back then, certainly! If the past few chapters have been spent on reactions to the last event or revelations, it’s a fair bet that a letter is about to be delivered which will further the plot.

This is chick-lit but it is exquisite chick-lit. In fact, it is archetypal chick-literature. The strong-willed female protagonist? Check. The handsome yet broody love interest? Check. The “Will they? Won’t they?” question that hovers around for the best part of 300 pages? Check. Everything else is detail. If you’re in any doubt, check out Bridget Jones’ Diary.

After this, I feel more tolerant of chick-lit but this could still have been helped a little more plain English. It’s a classic and part of the English Canon for good reason. More than that, it’s part of our popular culture and it is always so much more satisfying when you know why. It also helps to be a little bit more interesting at dinner parties.

P.S. But what is the point of Mary Bennet?

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