Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jane in June/July: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This post is part of Jane in June (and now July) hosted by The Book Rat.
This novel completes part of the requirements for the Jane Austen Reading Challenge.

Elizabeth Bennet is only one of five sisters for whom her meddlesome mother has dedicated her life to finding rich husbands. Mrs. Bennet thinks she's hit the jackpot for her eldest daughters when newly wealthy Mr. Bingley and his aristocratic friend Mr. Darcy move to town, but while affection quickly grows between the two mild-tempered lovers, the exact opposite develops between Elizabeth and Darcy. Though Darcy is amazingly wealthy, even that isn't enough to help Mrs. Bennet overlook his haughty manners and apparently arrogant disdain, and Lizzy herself is offended by his snide remarks about her appearance. However, much to Darcy's surprise and chagrin, he finds himself increasingly drawn to Elizabeth Bennet's "fine eyes" and lively spirit, despite the disparity in their stations and the lowness of her connections. Through the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth's overly dramatic family, Lizzy and Darcy slowly come to discover whether love can truly conquer all obstacles, even the ones it creates for itself.

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's quintessential work of vibrant characters and unlikely romance. Elizabeth Bennet is the heroine every girl wishes she could be - lively, witty and independent, despite the era in which she lived. Surrounded by insufferable but thoroughly entertaining characters, Lizzy's brilliance only shines brighter amidst the inelegant milieu. Lizzy and Darcy's story has captivated readers for generations, and for obvious reasons. Their witty banter and the increasingly palpable tension that builds between them is skillfully crafted to draw readers in and keep them enchanted long after the final page. No one is what they seem in this classic tale of mistaken first impressions, and newcomers to the story will find themselves taken in by the misguided perceptions of the hapless heroine. Austen's wit is at its finest in the commentary and dialogue of Pride and Prejudice. Her portraits of society scale every rung of the hierarchical ladder - from poor Charlotte Lucas who is desperate and running out of options, to the sniveling Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins, to the proud Darcy and his pompous aunt, Lady Catherine. However, it is the characters' relationships that are the highlight of the novel. Jane Bennet is determined to think well of everyone, and Lizzy is determined to disillusion her. Mr. Collins worships the ground that his patroness Lady Catherine walks on, and his long-winded and obsequious speeches are as hilarious as they are irritating. Of course, the relationship that outshines them all is that of Lizzy and Darcy - the unwilling lovers who progress from stubborn dislike to unwilling admiration and, finally, to perfect chemistry. This novel was best described by Reuben Brower as "light, bright and sparkling," but in true Austenian fashion, it also simmers with incisive undertones of criticism for the societal customs to which the most ingratiating characters cling.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4.6/5

Don't miss my other Jane in June reviews of Northanger Abbey and Emma!

Enter the Jane in June Giveaway for a chance to win one of three Jane Austen classics - Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice! Ends July 15th.


Roof Beam Reader said...

Ah, Pride and Prejudice - probably one of the funniest novels I've ever read. Austen is such a great story-teller and satirist. This is probably my second favorite of hers, after Northanger Abbey. And I agree with your assessment that plot/premise are a bit lacking as compared to the beauty of her prose & her characterization. Great review!

VABookworm87 said...

This story was the beginning of my downfall... I found the Colin Firth rendition in the university library and watched it just to pass some time. I ended up loving it, and have since become obsessed with Jane's stories. Now I'm completely ruined! I'll never be happy until I have my own Mr. Darcy- complete with British accent! Although I will say I'm also very keen on Captain Wentworth... Pride and Prejudice was an immediate favorite of mine, but Persuasion has always held an extremely close second!

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Fantastic review! P&P has been one of my constant favourite reads since around the time I was 9 or so, but I always considered it more of a romance novel. However last year I read for the first time Emma, and was floored by how laugh out loud funny it was! Don't know if P&P is the same and I just had to mature to a certain level to feel the subtle nuances of the witty narrative and dialogues, or if Emma is different in that aspect. Will have to re-read P&P I guess to decide :-)

lisa :) said...

I always have a hard time reviewing books that are really well known, but you did a great job with this one. Nicely written!

Misty said...

Aaack! How can you give the premise 4/5? This is the book that *started* it all! It's become cliche now, the whole character transformation thing that they both undergo, but this is the definitive blueprint!
Come on!

( ;p )

The Bookish Type said...

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting! I love getting thoughtful feedback =)

@Roof Beam Reader - Austen was a brilliant satirist, wasn't she?! I'm so glad to find someone who appreciates Northanger Abbey as much as I do! It's usually so underrated, but I find it hysterical! =)

@VABookworm87 - Oh yes, this story holds a special place in many hearts =) I have to agree with you about Wentworth! He's a pretty dashing hero himself. He, Knightley and Darcy are all my idea of the perfect man ;-) If you find that perfect British man, ask if he has a brother for me! :-p

@Stella (Ex Libris) - I can definitely see what you're saying about P&P and Emma. I think that Emma is generally considered the more mature work, and yet P&P is the general favorite. I think the Darcy/Lizzy story has a lot to do with that. We're all a sucker for a good romance =) I'll be interested to hear what you think after re-reading P&P!

@lisa :) - Thank you!! It is a little intimidating to review such a Classic, but I just try to be honest & it helps that I absolutely adore this novel =)

@Misty - Haha I actually thought about that, but even though P&P was the original love story, it's still a fairly basic boy meets girl story, you know? What's so brilliant about Austen is that she takes that and turns it into a timeless Classic with characters that we love and feel like we've known forever. Her turns of phrase and laugh out loud satire are also major selling points =)

The Bookish Type said...

Well Misty, after doing my Persuasion review, I was thinking on P&P a little more and realized that it's more of an involved plot than, say, Persuasion, and decided I needed to slightly revise my plot rating accordingly. It's impossible not to compare an author's works with one another. Maybe you'll feel better now ;-)

skyla11377 said...

Pride And Prejudice is my favorite of all the Jane Austen novels. I LOVE Lizzy (Elizabeth Bennet) and Mr. Darcy. I can never get enough of them.

Misty said...

Yes! Why do I feel like I should be ala Mr Burns right now and pull an "Excellent..."? It's a GOOD thing, the Jane-love. Begone, Burnsy!

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