Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen, book reviewJane Austen is an author who many people love or hate. Her detractors will say she is dull and formulaic, her fans will say she wrote beautifully. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Pride and Prejudice is perhaps her best known novel. Set in Hertfordshire, it is about the Bennet family, Mr & Mrs Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia. Mrs Bennet’s main goal in life is securing advantageous marriages for her daughters, and so chases after every eligible man who enters the county. The main character is Elizabeth, from whose point of view we see much of the story. Her sister Jane becomes acquainted with new neighbour Mr Bingley, but the romance seems suddenly ended thanks to the intervention of the infamous Mr Darcy, with whom Elizabeth herself has a changing relationship through the novel.

Pride and Prejudice deals with provincial affairs and chaste love affairs of the early nineteenth century. It is not an action packed read, nor is it full of plot twists and surprise. The story is pleasant, but rather mild. The events which shock and stun the characters and cause women to faint or take to their beds ill, seem only moderately surprising to a modern day reader.

“…there is now a new edition by White’s Books, which I have to say, has thoroughly impressed me.”

Austen’s novels are very much of their time, so while the story may be gentle, Pride and Prejudice offers a fascinating insight into the lives and loves of the middle and upper classes of the early nineteenth century. There is a strict code of etiquette regarding when you should call on acquaintances, and interaction between men and women. The language used to describe love is on occasion similar to language we use today, but with different meanings – “making love” is used to describe flirting with someone.

Pride and Prejudice always seems a very formal novel. The dialogue never seems relaxed, but is very formal – whether Austen has written this as people spoke, or whether she consciously wrote formally as it is a novel, I don’t know. Couples in love do not change their behaviour towards each other once their feelings are open – after 25 or more years of marriage, Mrs Bennet still calls her husband Mr Bennet.

While we should never judge a book by its cover, the cover of my edition of Pride and Prejudice is worth mentioning. Austen’s works have been published in many styles over the years, but there is now a new edition by White’s Books, which I have to say, has thoroughly impressed me. I like hardbacks, but often find them a bit unwieldy for reading and carrying in my bag. On the other hand, paperbacks are easily damaged and look ratty after a few reads. White’s Books have now published a selection of classic books in a pocket hardback edition – the size and price of a small paperback, but with a lovely hardback binding. Pride and Prejudice in this edition was perfect for reading on the train and carrying about in my handbag, and it looks good on my bookcase. It also included an introduction by Kate Atkinson, which came across rather like an essay for English Literature class, and some reading notes.

Pride and Prejudice is one of those classic novels which are well worth reading. Jane Austen’s work influenced so many who followed her, so why not read the source? Her work may be provincial and gentle, but as far I am concerned that is not necessarily a bad thing. A bit of gentle eighteenth century relief from the more exciting novels and films which are on offer now is really a very nice thing.

Many thanks to White’s Books for providing a review copy of Pride and Prejudice.

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Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

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Written by eilidhcatriona