Pride and prejudice – words figuring heavily in my relationship with classic literature. Truthfully, I’ve never had a keen interest in the classics. I pretty much went straight from Nancy Drew to the racy stuff hidden in my grandmother’s closet…anything Harold Robbins, I was in heaven. I hadn’t the time or interest in classic lit beyond the high school scraps I suffered through and promptly forgot. Over the years, my prejudice against old, fuddy duddy stories and long dead authors remained. Contemporary bestsellers instead of ancient tomes for me. And, lest one surmise that a burgeoning good taste led me to read Pride and Prejudice, let me set everyone straight.
Rather, the impetus was my purchase of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley
, and the realization this murder mystery involves characters from Pride and Prejudice
. So, because my anal retentive self cannot read a book series out of sequence, I dug into Austen’s classic. Now, having read and enjoyed it in so many ways, I’ve layed down my prejudice and found a bit of pride.
Whoever said there’s nothing new was so right. The story of the Bennet sisters could easily be transported into modern times. Yes, woman have options other than marriage and children now, and can certainly support themselves. That’s huge. But face it; ultimately, most long for a family like 200 years ago. When I think of my own angst years ago, and I see young women today, I despair that not much has changed, including the bid to make the right marriage. Is he educated, what university did he attend, does he have a good career, what is his family like? Okay, maybe something’s different. Men ask themselves the self-same questions about women, and instead of the amount of livestock the prospective spouse holds, we’re interested in stock portfolios. Whether it’s cows and pigs or corporate shares, Austen’s tale of machinations and intrigue, jealousy and jockeying, ring just as true today.
In addition, Austen’s characters are as well-fleshed out and believable as any contemporary ones. Whether it’s the feisty Elizabeth who gives Darcy as good as she gets, the brooding Darcy who’s social skills leave much to be desired, or Elizabeth’s grasping mother who plays favorites with her daughters….all are fully alive and bring technicolor images to mind. So, since it’s just as fun to read about romantic antics of 200 years ago as today, I’ve laid down my prejudice. The classics rock.
And pride? What am I proud of? First, that I’ve added to my embarrassingly puny list of classics read. Yup, with this one, that must bring my grand total up to…maybe two. Also, while the story is indeed rather simple, I was reminded while reading that the English language 200 years ago was anything but simple and straightforward. If long-winded, twisting, and winding sentences are not your thing, Jane Austen might not be for you. Indeed, I had to re-read quite a few passages twice or thrice, but I am proud to announce I persevered, and actually enjoyed reacquainting myself with this manner of speech, tiresome though it was at times. My advice – read only when fully awake.
Actually, I purchased a boxed set of Austen works, so I still have Sense and Sensibility
waiting for me. But much as I loved my first Austen, I am not making any promises when I will get to them! After all, I have P.D. James' murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice