I'm terribly unread when it comes to classics, so I'm going to try and rectify that with my new feature: Classic Corner! If I read and review a classic, it will be under this banner. Wish me luck!
First released: 1813
I have finally read Pride and Prejudice - in less than a week, might I add - and I'm so proud of myself. It probably seems like no big deal to most people, but to me it marks the oldest book I've ever read, and my first proper classic! Before reading this book, the oldest I'd read was The Hobbit, which is pretty old but not 200 YEARS old. I've never been able to read classics before; I never understood what the author was trying to say because of the language used and writing style. So, yes, I'm happy and proud and I don't feel as stupid as I used to. Ha!
I've always wanted to read Pride and Prejudice, but it's only recently that I became more enthusiastic about it. My BFF is a completely obsessed Janeite (I think that's the right term; she owns 47 different copies of the book - you get what I mean!) and we made a pact to read each other's favourite books. I've held my end of the bargain, so now she's got to read The Book Thief! I also saw Austenland at the cinema and that made me even more determined to introduce myself to this Regency world that so many people feel so passionate about, and I am beyond glad that I did. I loved it.
I'm not going to lie here: I did struggle with some passages and words in this book. I had no idea what they meant and was absolutely baffled. I had to ask my friend to translate whole paragraphs several times before I understood what Austen was on about but, once I got it, it all made sense. I found it to be VERY wordy, with sentences written back to front, if that makes any sense. Obviously they talked a lot differently in the early 1800s, so I was expecting to be like a fish out of water when it came to reading it. I'd say I managed to grasp about 90% of it on my own, with that other pesky 10% requiring explanations.
As for the book itself, well, what can I say that hasn't already been said a million times? Jane Austen was clearly ahead of her time, both in her observations and the way she wrote. She seemed to have a good grasp of her society and the hierarchies within it, and I was fascinated by the behaviour and actions of some of the characters. I was most surprised to find characters I'm familiar with now, in 2013, from mean girls to airheads to the rich, unattainable boy. Did Jane Austen have a window into the future, or was she just the first person to observe such people? I haven't read anything else from that time to enable me to answer my own question, but I suspect Austen was way ahead of the crowd.
Lizzy's character surprised me most, I think, because I didn't expect her to be so outspoken and quick-witted. I mean, Darcy had no idea what to do with her or how to act - he must have been as gobsmacked as I was! I loved her though, and him too, even though there weren't even that many interactions between them. All the Regency manners and way of living captivated me and, if I'm honest, I'd quite like to visit that period in history just to witness the manners alone!
I suppose you'd say Pride and Prejudice is a love story, though it's also a clever social commentary of a time very different to ours. The principles are the same, but everything is executed so properly and with more respect and morality than you'd ever find now. Lizzy and Darcy never even kiss, for God's sake. I was astonished by that, but it obviously fit and was how things were back then. I'm going to read this again sometime, probably next year, because I think I'll understand it a lot better and quicker a second time. I'm also going to watch the 1995 BBC adaptation now that I won't fall asleep during the first hour. Ahem.