Jane Austen is certainly a hot topic this year; the author dying exactly 200 years ago. With all the buzz surrounding her, including her position on the new £10 note and Andrea Leadsom’s strange comment in the House of Commons that she’s “one of our greatest living authors”, I think it’s time that I try one of her books. Pride and Prejudice is probably her most famous novel. It follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet as she becomes a lady and steps out into the world for the first time.
Elizabeth’s family consist of her four sisters and two parents. Her mother and two younger sisters are very irritating characters. Her mother, desperate to marry off her daughters, invites any young man possible over to dinner, almost begging them to marry her daughters. She’s over-bearing and annoying with no regard for what her daughters want. She’s thrilled when her brother ends up agreeing to pay money for a man to marry her disgraced, youngest daughter, Lydia, who eloped at sixteen. Lydia then becomes insufferable as her married status makes her big headed and boastful towards her older sisters, despite the means the marriage is obtained.
Darcy is a shy and somewhat cruel man, but he’s generally nice. His character is very complex and I, like Elizabeth, found it difficult to decide whether he was actually likeable or not. He refuses to dance with Elizabeth at a ball because she’s too ugly for him, yet is apparently very affectionate towards his sister and swallows his pride to make a deal with a man who had been horrible to him in the past to help Elizabeth’s sister. As foretold in the title, his pride was always his greatest flaw and often nearly costs him his relationship with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was a little easier to understand. She’s a loving sister and sensible girl, but she does have the tendency to judge people quickly based on rumours or public opinion. In other words, she’s the prejudice in this story. She’s a friendly, headstrong, relatable narrator with more brains than looks, aspects I think many modern-day authors could learn from. There are no warbling narrations about Darcy’s looks and she doesn’t spend hours wondering if he likes her or not. She’s practical, caring for her family and largely level headed.
The novel follows the opinions and actions as Elizabeth and Darcy try and work out how they feel about each other. Like with any good love story, there are a few awkward moments like as when Elizabeth looks around Darcy’s stately home while he’s not there (was this a thing in the 1800s?!) when he happens to turn up. There are also some very sweet moments, like when Darcy comforts Elizabeth and helps deal with practical matters when she discovers her youngest sister has eloped.
Of all the Austen I’ve read; Pride and Prejudice is the best. It’s not too tricky to read and it flows nicely. I found Emma a little plotless, but was relieved to find Pride and Prejudice interesting and the characters almost relatable. It’s a sweet, well written story that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys slightly sophisticated romance novels.