KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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I finished reading Pride and Prejudice today. As a result, I can no longer say that I've never read a book by Jane Austen. Somehow I never managed to have Austen assigned in a class, and I don't tend to pick up classics on my own unless prodded. Nothing particularly prodded me this time, though; really, I just decided I ought to finish it. I made an attempt to read P&P several years back but didn't make it very far. This time I was determined to get through, and it went much more easily. What made the difference? It's possible this edit was more readable than the other, but I think the real answer is my recent understanding that the book is meant to be comic. Maybe "comic" is the wrong word... satire? Ironic commentary? Anyway, it's not a straight romance. So I picked it up with Austen's intentions in mind and I found it, overall, quite delightful.

I found the story very engaging. Of course, it's common knowledge in Western culture that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together, so some things that were perhaps meant to be suspenseful -- Wickham's true character, the machinations of Miss Bingley, Darcy's engagement to whats-her-name, the daughter of Lady Catherine -- were foregone conclusions, but I found myself drawn in anyway, wondering exactly how it would all resolve itself. Elizabeth and Darcy are both excellent characters, flawed but sympathetic and ultimately feeling real. Some of the others seemed too much like caricatures to me -- Mrs. Bennett, Lydia, and Mr. Collins all drove me insane in their own individual ways -- but given the age and influence of this novel, I am fully willing to accept that this may be where the archetypes come from. In particular, I spent most of the book passionately hating Mrs. Bennett. She struck me as shallow and stupid, and I just couldn't work up any sympathy for her. The secondary character I enjoyed the most was probably Jane. In some respects I found myself identifying with her, notably her attempts to think the best of everyone she meets, warranted or not, which is something I catch myself doing quite often!

The first time I tried reading this book, I had difficulty getting past the language. That went more smoothly for me this time -- as when I read Shakespeare, it took me a little while to get the cadence of it in my ear, but once I was used to it, I had no trouble following. However, I do think it's safe to say that I prefer modern novels, particularly dialog. So many conversations were described rather than transcribed, and I really dislike indirect quotation in narrative fiction. I would much rather see the words of dialog written out than summarized. I've read so little from this time period that I don't know whether this trait is peculiar to Austen or simply the way books were written in those days, but either way I think I prefer how things are done now. Still, I would read more Austen, and at some point probably will do so.
Tags: books

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