Finished with Pride and Prejudice… Finally

Well, I finished Pride and Prejudice yesterday.

Sigh. Finally.

I did enjoy it much more than Sense and Sensibility, which I attribute significantly to the BBC-sponsored mental images of all the characters in my head, but also to, honestly, just a stronger preference for the plot. Elizabeth Bennet is just one of my favorite literary characters, along with Emma Woodhouse, Clare Abshire, and Buttercup (because, yes, I read the novel long before I saw the movie). I owe Jane Austen a lot for creating this woman.

And this reading was more enjoyable than the first as I have become even more familiar with Austen’s cadence and can read her dialogue more as it was intended. I was able to inject the tones of witty banter and light flirtation that escaped me in my first reading. While reading the final chapters yesterday, on the train, I giggled and gushed over the tidy happy resolution to Elizabeth and Darcy’s nontraditional courtship. It was worth it.

Despite all that, all the enjoyment I had in the actual reading, the whole thing felt like a bit of a chore. I do not think I will undertake a project like this again – focusing on one author for a chunk of time like this. It feels a bit too academic, which I think would be fine if I had not severely underestimated how busy I am. There are also just too many other books I want to read! The literal, physical “to read” shelf of my bookcase is disturbingly full.

But should you read Pride and Prejudice? Where is the substance of a review, Cassie? Well, it’s missing and does not plan to return, I am sorry to say. It’s not a quick read but it’s not unbearably long. There are parts where the plot moves slowly but that’s tolerable if you already know the story. I do think everyone should read it at least once, but if you’re content to just experience the BBC miniseries, I will not judge you for it (and I may join you for it).

I’m moving on today to finish Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding and Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman – having all of these half-finished books is driving me crazy! I should get through those tonight, though, and start up Austen’s Persuasion with tomorrow morning’s commute.

Final word: I’m glad I stuck with it, I’m just glad to be done with it.

Sneaking in Some Austen

While this weekend was primarily dedicated to naive wonderment and baby-steps in programming, I found plenty of time to sneak in bursts of Jane Austen.

pride and prejudice

I pushed through my fatigue and read quite a bit more of Pride and Prejudice. Currently, Mr. Collins is in town and has his heart set on Elizabeth but I have not yet gotten to the proposal. I believe I stopped in the midst of Wickham’s well-spun yarn of Darcy’s betrayal and his own admirable forbearance. I owe P.D. James quite the apology for my expression of distaste at the amount of time spent on Darcy’s thoughts in Death Comes to Pemberley. I posited that this was in sharp contrast to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but it is not true! Much more space is dedicated to the inner thoughts of Mr. Darcy as he recognizes and fights his infatuation with Elizabeth Bennet than I had recalled. I have become so accustomed to the BBC miniseries that it holds sway in my mind as to the truth of Pride and Prejudice. While the adaptation is certainly the story of Elizabeth Bennet, the novel is much more equitable in its dedicated space. This is a delightful discovery and I am supremely enjoying this re-reading. I am so glad I didn’t truly quit!

emma

With a bottle of white wine already chilled, I was quite agreeable to Anna’s suggestion that we watch the Gwyneth Paltrow-led adaptation of Emma on Saturday evening. This is another of my favorite Austen adaptations and though I had not seen it years, it lived up to my nostalgic expectations. Paltrow is a fantastic Emma and the cast is littered with esteemed British actors. I am happy to say I have not yet seen a disappointing Austen adaptation – though I am sure they exist, so I tread into these waters carefully. I also discovered that Anna owns a copy of Clueless, and so…

On Sunday, we had to watch Clueless! It has easily been ten years since I’ve seen this film, but it also lived up to expectations. I was a bit wary as we started it that it would be one of the films you loved in your adolescence but upon later viewing seemed cheesy and dated. It is not the case at all here. First, it is an excellent modernization of Emma – the key plot points are all there, but manipulated just enough to make them plausible for a 1990s teenager. The script is smart: the jokes are clever and stand up to the test of time. The only thing that really dates this film is the fashion and the music, and those are two things we love to look back on with rosy nostalgia.

I am happy to report that Jane Austen made my weekend quite enjoyable. I will surely owe her more gratitude as Pride and Prejudice provides me tiny moments of escape during this busy, busy week.

Death Comes to Pemberley… and I Resurrect Pride and Prejudice

Just five days ago, I gave up on re-reading Pride and Prejudice. And I was totally okay with that. And if this was your project, and you did that, I would not judge you at all.

But I can’t quit.

Maybe I just needed an Austen break. Maybe reading Death Comes to Pemberley reignited my drive. Whatever it was, I realized this morning that I just could not compromise on my original plan for this project.

So, I’m back on board with Pride and Prejudice. With a little over a month left, I have quite a bit of reading to do. Luckily, my little introverted heart needs a break from all the socializing and coast-hopping and is screaming for me to just have a couple nights in to relax.

But let’s go back and talk about Death Comes to Pemberley. This novel picks up the story of Elizabeth and Darcy, six years later, happily settled at Pemberley with two beautiful children and a happy life punctuated with, of course, family drama here and there. Though she is not particularly welcomed to Pemberley, Lydia shows up in the middle of the night before an annual ball, and plunges our favorite characters into a murder mystery.

I was happily impressed with the continuity of story. It felt seamless, often referencing small plot points from Pride and Prejudice. At times, though, I felt that James challenged how I understood these characters. Elizabeth became less romantic and mused on how financial considerations impacted her past decisions. Charlotte is suddenly less sympathetic and a bit devious. And Darcy is now quite thoughtful and romantic! I don’t know that these characterizations are wrong, and I might also be far too influenced by the BBC adaptation, but it just felt “off” at times to me.

I also have very little interest in reading contemporary mystery novels. While this retained the language and writing style of Jane Austen, there were too many features of modern storytelling that frustrated me. For example, the same details, around the events of the murder in question, were repeated numerous times. Occasionally, this was done to illustrate how one person’s recollection varies from another, or to introduce a small piece of information not previously known. More often, though, I felt like I was suffering through another three-page retelling of “what happened that night” without any payoff.

Yet, this was a quick read and it was fun. The requisite twists were surprising, though not shocking. I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep reading as I do in my best experiences but I did not have to force myself to get through the story. I certainly do not feel any worse off having read it, if that’s a recommendation at all.

Verdict: if you love pride and prejudice, it’s a cute read; good for beach days or rainy weekends

Quitting Pride and Prejudice

I have quit my rereading of Pride and Prejudice.

I just can’t do it. I read this book about a year ago. I’ve seen the BBC and Keira Knightley-led adaptations countless times. I just cannot read this book again, not right now. It’s a good book; I love it. But it doesn’t feel fresh to me at all right now and I found myself dreading reading in general because of the obligation. And that’s not the point of this, at all.

I tackled two
Pride and Prejudice-related tasks last night though: reading P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley, which has started off wonderfully, and watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. This book is really quite delightful. James retains much of Austen’s language and cadence, which really makes it seem like a proper sequel. The plot is quick enough (in sometimes stark contrast to Austen’s, um, patience with her plot development); I expect to be through it before the end of Friday. It’s very obviously something done by someone who loves Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, which in itself is rather endearing. The web series next mentioned is a sort of modern twist on Pride and Prejudice. I’m pacing at about two videos a day; they’re short and pretty cute. 

I may not reread
Emma either.

Disappointments abound, but as long as I get through all the new-to-me Austen works, I’ll be satisfied with my endeavor.

Summer of Austen Begins

When Clueless came out, DMC (my then-very-best-friend) and I were the very first people at the local theater for the very first showing. (This surely betrays my age a bit since we were allowed to go alone and did not need chaperones.) Of course, we then spent the entire summer quoting the film (as if!) and pining for a closet like Cher’s. 

Oh, how I wanted that yellow plaid skirt!

And so it came to be that my first Jane Austen novel was Emma. Truly, I did not fall in love with the book upon this reading. I’m not even certain that I finished it. This is not a story of an adolescent love affair with the love affairs of Jane Austen’s imagination. But I’ve always held on to the book, and I did re-read it sometime in college – at which time, I guess liked it.

And then I read it again. And again. And somewhere along the way, I realized that I truly love this book. Recently, I exaggerated to a friend that I read Emma every summer, in August. That’s not entirely true (confession!) But I have read it several times, and typically in the late summer: those hot, lazy days when reading in your home with the curtains drawn to plead for some kind of relief from the sun is about all you can manage to do. The idea of reading Austen annually triggered a romantic curiosity though, and an idea – surely, reading any Austen novel in the summer is an enjoyable way to pass the time.
And so begins my first three-month project: Summer of Austen. I have read Emma, of course, and Pride and Prejudice (though I’ve seen the BBC miniseries countless more times than I’ve read the novel). I have not read any other Austen novels though and really know little about her life and contemporaries, beyond common popular knowledge.

I will immerse myself in Austen for the next three months: her novels, film adaptations, biographies, contemporary and current reviews and criticisms. I will read (and watch) with the eye of a historian, an amateur literary critic, an easily amused hopeful romantic.
First up: Northanger Abbey.