Up front I admit that Jane Austen is my favorite author of all time. Ever since I inhaled ALL of her books within six weeks, several decades ago. Now, periodically, when I want to give myself a special treat, I re-read one of her masterpieces. Awarded five stars on Goodreads.
Pride and Prejudice — the story of the Bennet family — showcases Austen at her best. She miraculously creates suspenseful, page-turning novels around nothing more than the simple everyday relationships among people living in small towns and villages; their romances, their friendships, and the perennial pressure on women to marry well. At the same time, Austen manages to present a complete portrait of societal expectations imposed on women, class distinctions, and manners and morals of 19th century English society. And she does it all with so much subtle humor that I often find myself laughing aloud.
Many of you likely know the plot of this book, given how many movie and television adaptations there have been. In the Bennet family, there are five unmarried daughters at the start of the novel, headed by a kind but distant father and a mother who is completely preoccupied with finding husbands for each one. There are wealthy suitors to be pursued, soldiers to be flirted with, and even a scandal.
But what I believe makes Austen so brilliant is that you will recognize each character she creates, from people in your own life. All of the foibles of the people we know, the very characteristics that make us human, fill every page. Vanity, superficiality, selfishness, misunderstanding — and of course pride and prejudice. You will cringe at the overt sucking up of the vicar to his rich patroness, wince at the boorish behavior of Mrs. Bennet, and recoil at the irresponsibility of flighty Lydia. And you will love Jane and Elizabeth and their close sibling relationship.
This is a wonderful book to read aloud and well worth the investment. The sentences may initially strike you as long and somewhat convoluted, but every word is chosen carefully and adds to the overall impact. Nobody understood human nature better or was more skilled at capturing its essence than Jane Austen. And you can’t really appreciate her art just by watching a movie adaptation. You need to read her original words.