|Pride and prejudice (FictionDB)|
The oldest book in this list. One of my all-times favourites.
My Rating: 5 stars
03 in AAR Top 100 List
OK. A family with five daughters have to marry them all, because when the father dies, they would probably be ejected from their home by the male heir, a distant relationship. The older one, Jane, is good and beautiful. The second one, Elizabeth Bennett, called Lizzy by her family, is very clever and witty, and not such a beauty –but with a pair of fine eyes.
So when Mr. Bingley, a single young man with a certain fortune comes to town, well, everybody knows he must be in want of a wife. But, OMG, with this really nice chap comes a friend of his – Fitzwillian Darcy, a proud man with an even higher fortune but who does not trust his best friend’s judgement. To make a long story short –Jane & Bingley fall in love, but Darcy prevents that marriage. However, he can’t help falling in love with Lizzy. She despises him because of what he has done to her sister. Therefore she says ‘no’ to his less than romantic proposal.
In my opinion, this is not a romance novel, but a comedy of manners with an unforgettable love story inside. There you can find a realistic portrait of the gentry, with great psychological insight and an unsurpassed use of irony. Jane Austen is a daughter of the Age of Enligthenment, linked to the realistic tradition of the English novel. She describes with subtlety many of the social hypocrisies of her times, and she’s not very fond of amorous outbursts and rash decisions. The path to happiness involves common sense and personal merit. In a nutshell:
But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their pasions were stronger than their virtue, she could easily conjecture.
Must virtue be stronger than passion in order to be happy? That goes against every rule in the Book of Romanceland!
Really romantic authors, you know, the Brontë type, disdained Austen, but so did emotionally dry writers as George Eliot. They could know accept that witty and funny is not the oposite of serious but of boring. Lizzy is not a rebel, she does not try to change her condition or her world. She accepts what the most important choice in her life will be –a husband. She knows she’s got to be sensible. Lizzy easily eludes the risk of marrying a pompous clergyman. But she almost falls for the ‘romantic’ hero –a handsome guy, charming, alleged victim of terrible injustices. And in the end, with a lot of reflection and changes of mind, and after she sees Pemberley, well, then she realizes that her best chance to happiness is Him, Mr. Darcy.
Many characters are a cliché, I know –the noisy and dominant grande dame, the sycophantic clergyman, for instance. But they so well written that they look real. I’ve read this book many times –both in English and translated to Spanish. I always enjoy it but each time I find myself disliking more two characters - the mother and Lydia. If I were Elizabeth, I’d only be with them in Christmas, and only if they promise me to behave themselves and be quiet.
A very easy novel to read, quick, witty, with apparent spontaneity –‘apparent’ yes, because as a matter of fact everything is well calculated, structured, written and rewritten for years until it was they way it should be. This story has been working for two hundred years and you still can read it as your last bestseller.
I have to recognise that I’m not very comfortable with the inclusión of this book in this list. As I have said, I do not consider it a genre novel, but a classic one. Telling a love story was not even the main aim of Jane Austen. It could be because I came to this novel from the Literary point of view, not after watching the movies or reading about it in a Romance web page. What I like more is not the love story, but the style and the irony, always the irony, the subtle English humour.
But any path that leads you to Jane Austen is a good path. You will find enjoyment in the end, for sure.
The long review of this book, in Spanish, can be found here.