Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen & 200th Anniversary

Pride and Prejudice

If you’ve looked at a newspaper or books blog today, you may already be aware that today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s most famous novel Pride and Prejudice. I bought the book in December as part of Penguin’s 50% off sale, as I really love the Penguin English Library covers (see above).

It was such a strange experience reading it – I watched the 2005 film with Keira Knightley, and have watched the 1995 BBC television series with Jennifer Ehle and, of course, Colin Firth, as Mr Darcy. In fact, I’ve even watched the Bollywood adaptation Bride and Prejudice. I don’t know why I had never picked up the book before – it seems strange to know the story so well and yet to have never read the book. Normally it’s the other way round when you see a film or TV adaptation of a book you love. I read Sense and Sensibility a few years ago and although I enjoyed it, it was nowhere near as good Pride and Prejudice.

As I said, it was strange, as I knew the story so well and had already a picture in my mind of each of the characters. It’s funny that even after reading it, my mind associates different characters with certain actors from the different adaptations. For me, Lizzy and Mr Darcy will always be those portrayed in the BBC adaptation, as will Jane and Lydia be. However, Mr Bingley, Miss Bingley, Mr and Mrs Bennett and Mr Collins are all drawn in my mind as they are in the film. I really wish I could watch it again but my DVD seems to have gone AWOL… I do have the BBC DVDs so I may watch them instead. But I digress. It’s funny how I never tire of Pride and Prejudice, I even found myself daydreaming about the characters. What is it about Pride and Prejudice that has this effect?

I realise that I haven’t written much of a review here – I’m sure most people are familiar with the story, that of Lizzie Bennet and her four sisters and their mum trying to find husbands for them all. Cue the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy – Bingley and Jane seem to hit it off while Lizzie thinks Mr Darcy is a bit pompous. And the rest, as they say, is history…

I loved the book – I felt so familiar with the characters, and although a lot of the dialogue in the adaptations I’ve seen is lifted from the book, it was still nice to take my time with it, and find out a little more about the characters. Like when you go back and reread a book that is an old favourite. Pride and Prejudice is definitely one of mine now as I suspected it would be – I like the chatty, conspiratorial tone of the book; how much it ridicules some of the characters; and do you know, it just makes me wonder what ladies did all day long. As much as I love my work and know that I would become bored really quickly, wouldn’t it be nice to have been a lady of leisure for a while, spending your days reading, playing piano, visiting and going on tours for weeks on end? I think it sounds lovely (and maybe exposes me as inherently lazy) – although I definitely would not relish the idea of having to find a rich husband quite so much, or having Mrs Bennet for a mother for that matter.

What is your experience of reading Pride and Prejudice? If you had only seen the adaptations, does it live up to or exceed your expectations? And which adaptation do you prefer?

I also have to share this updated version of Pride and Prejudice, a video series on youtube called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which I gratefully discovered today by way of Iris on Books. The series is highly addictive, if at times wonderfully obnoxious, and it had me continually clicking on to watch the next episode. I think I may have even written this post influenced by the dialogue. I feel like I haven’t said anything particularly worthwhile about the book. Oh well, here’s a quiz The Guardian featured today called Know Your Bingleys From Your Bennets. I only managed 6 out of 10 which is quite shocking considering I only finished reading the book on Saturday.

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12 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Literary musings

12 responses to “Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen & 200th Anniversary

  1. I love Pride and Prejudice, and I fully intend to re-read it sometime this year.

  2. I love Pride and Prejudice (and wrote about it on my blog today, too)! I re-read it recently, and now I’m watching the BBC miniseries all week (for the 10th time probably!). The novel is very funny, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the story provides interesting commentary on social hierarchy and the benefits/drawbacks of marriage.

  3. I love Pride and Prejudice and have lost count of how many times I have read it – it’s always still fresh. I thought the film was ok but the definitive version for me will always be the Colin Firth one – I now see all the characters through its lens. You mention Mr Collins – I can’t even remember what he was like in the film, but I thought David Bamber from the BBC version was perfect. I could go on and on!

    Agree it is better than Sense & Sensibility – but have you read Emma?

    • Jennifer Wallace

      I haven’t read Emma – although I think I have seen the film! It’s strange, I don’t remember Mr Collins from the BBC series at all… It’s funny how things like that work and you end up, as you put it so well, seeing the book through the lens of a particular adaptation.

      • You must read Emma! My favourite varies between it and P&P. My best film/tv version of that is from the 70s with people I’ve never heard of again. Not keen on the film, assuming you mean the Gwyneth Paltrow version. Recent TV version with Romola Garai ok apart from Michael Gambon as the father who was brilliant I thought.

  4. I also love the Penguin English Library covers (the Pride and Prejudice one is particularly lovely).
    I’m glad you see Lizzie and Darcy as they are in the BBC series – I think they are portrayed perfectly by the actors! I haven’t seen Bride and Prejudice and have not been watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but I am intrigued!

    • Jennifer Wallace

      I have become somewhat addicted to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! It’s very American – Lydia in particular is just exactly what I imagine a modern-day Lydia would be.

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