Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pride and Prejudice: My Experience

I am a convert.
I have joined the ranks of the Austen-Insane.  And may I never recover.

ok, that's a tad dramatic.

Let me explain: 

So, I (or, rather, all my friends) went through this phase about 10 years ago, when ANYTHING Jane Austen was just fantastic.  We loved it. 

So, I did love Austen, for about a year or two.  But, I got over it.  Austen's stories never were as high on my list of faves as Charles Dicken's works, or Victor Hugo, (umm... or Agatha Christie *shhh*)  but those stories weren't the rage, and no one I know of ever formed a Dickens fan club.  And, while I would certainly admit that Jane Austen is a genius in her own right, what I was too embarrassed to admit is that I didn't love the movies enough to invest time in the books.  And that is what is wrong with novel to film adaptations. (But, I digress)  The only Austen novel I had read was Emma.  I once started Persuasion.  Until this week.  My guilt finally overcame me.  Why do people always ASSUME that I must be an Austen fanatic just because I'm a 20 something girl?  And if I squealed slightly when faced with the prospect of seeing the new adaptation of P&P, or if I was very willing to join in the "girls night" when the new Austen adaptations aired on Masterpiece Theater last winter, or if I bought DVDs of my favorites of those adaptations (Just Sense and Sensibility) it's because I knew it was expected of me.  All the while knowing I was not really a "Jane-ite."  Wouldn't a true "Jane-ite" love the movies enough to buy the books so she could devour them at least quarterly if not monthly?  Or, in all truth, a TRUE "Jane-ite" would have loved the books long before the movies were even heard of.

One of my goals this year is to read the books I always planned to read, but never did.  The ones I pretend I have read, but really have only read the cliff notes.  To read the classics that I never before had the stamina to wade through. One of them is Pride and Prejudice.

I have a new-found, freshly formed respect and delight in this story.  I LOVE it.  You know Colin Firth?  The "Oh-so-perfect-Mr.-Darcy-help-I'm-going-to-swoon"???  Yeah.  I never liked him much.  What's his name who plays Darcy in the '05 version with Keira-Pirate-Queen-Knightley?  Him not so much, either.  Maybe better than Firth.  Maybe.  The Mr. Darcy on the page in Austen's own words?  SO much better.  I'm still not a swooning fan-girl but I definitely did not expect to like him as much as I did.  I liked him better than Elizabeth, especially in the beginning of the book.

And Elizabeth?  It's so interesting to read a character for the first time as the author intends and not how the actress interprets.  She is an interesting mix of Jeniffer Ehle and Keira Knightley's interpretations... and yet... not.  Much less likeable (especially in the beginning) than Ehle.  Much less self-consumed than Knightley.  Much more prejudiced than both of them.

I really can't express my thoughts completely on reading this novel for the first time.  The A&E, 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is almost word for word adapted from Austen's original work.  And yet...  how interesting to read the exact same dialogue and so much more fully understand and appreciate it.

I don't know if there is anyone else like me out there in blog land.  Maybe you've seen all the movies and when people suppose you to be enamored by anything Austen and imagine that you must harbor a secret crush on Mr. Darcy (or at the very least Colonel Brandon) you just allow them to suppose it.  Read the book.  If you're still not an Austen appreciator, fine.  But, maybe you'll be like me, and after seeing the '95 version 50 times and the '05 version maybe 10, and you're heartily sick of both of them, you'll read the book and discover a story and characters you had previously underestimated.


Shannon September 22, 2009 at 8:04 AM  

Welcome to Austen World! :-) I'm so glad you were able to discover the "real" Austen, behind all the film stars -- I completely agree with you that the movies have "defined" Jane Austen's work (which really isn't fair, because her books are much deeper than a film can accurately portray!). I read "Sense and Sensibility" for the second time about a year ago. It had been about seven years since I'd read it the first time, and I remembered not liking it very much at thirteen. But this time, I was completely absorbed in it! The character relationships were so fascinating that I couldn't stop reading. But "Persuasion" will always be my favorite!

And by the way, I am a member of a very exclusive Dickens fan club -- there's just one member. ;-) It's too bad that true Dickens fans are so few and far between!

I really enjoyed this post! Thank you!

Yours in Christ,

Sara September 22, 2009 at 8:09 AM  

I've never felt like a true "Austenite" either. Hugo is SO much better! But I have read the books - in fact, I think the book came before the movie with Sense & Sensibility and it certainly did with Northanger Abbey! Those are my favorites. :)

Melanie September 22, 2009 at 8:36 AM  

I have always loved the film adaptions... well,that is, since I was old enough to understand them. But in the past couple years I have begun to pick up the books and find that they are even BETTER than the movies! (Though I don't think any movie adaption could get better than the '95 P&P ;-) ) "Mansfield Park" was especially good; and I can see how in each of the movie adaptions the character of Fanny was so changed. Right now I am reading "Sense & Sensibility". It is a great mix of the Columbia and the new BBC versions, and yet way better!

Isn't it amazing how Jane Austen pinpoints the exact way girls really think? Her characters are so real! I love it! (especially Catherine Morland!! ;-) )

BTW, I'm not a "oh-so-perfect-Mr-Darcy-help-I'm-gonna-swoon" person either. I mean, he's great and all that, but I dunno... I don't exactly swoon over him. I like Henry Tilney better. ;-)

Ana September 22, 2009 at 6:26 PM  

I LOVE Jane Austen! Louisa May Alcott is another really good one!

Jecca September 22, 2009 at 7:47 PM  

I have "read" Pride and Prejudice twice this year, mostly because I was able to listen to it through an awesome audiobook version available free on Itunes. It's professional, and the reader, Catherine Byers, is so expressive and gives each character their own accent and way of speaking. I heartily recommend it to anyone who may not have the time to sit down and physically read the book, or for anyone desiring a bit of a change. Look it up in the podcasts at the Itunes store. Love it!

Having seen the '05 P&P easily 20 times and the '95 twice, I was quite surprised to find the book yet so different from both of them. I was a late-comer to Austen, but do love the movies ("Mansfield Park" contends '05 P&P for my favorite!) and am making my way through the books. Reading Northanger right now, and I must agree with Melanie that Catherine is so much like a "real" woman!

How blessed we are to have these books that are written so well and in a pure way. :)


Emily September 25, 2009 at 8:33 AM  

I have a Pride and Prejudice marathon day planned on my upcoming break! :-)

Judith October 13, 2009 at 9:14 AM  

I enjoy the "older" films - that is, a bunch of the '80s films and the '95 P&P. I never "fell in love" with Mr Darcy and I never liked Emma Thomson's S&S - but, oh, the peer pressure to do both! :) The books are SO MUCH BETTER than the films - every time I read them, I discover new depths in the characters. Brilliant! I really enjoyed reading this post! :)

Audrey October 29, 2009 at 1:49 AM  

I have to admit, I am a "oh-so-perfect-Mr-Darcy-help-I'm-gonna-swoon" person. Almost. Not quite. But I can also proudly claim that I am one BECAUSE I read the book. But if you really want to know who gets me, it is *ssiiiighh* Mr. Knightly. I find that this seems to be a rare sentiment, *sigh* but I'm a victim of it, nevertheless. And Colonel Brandon. Can't forget him! I didn't really care for the bits of movie portrayals I've seen of either of them, though. After receiving seven works of Jane Austen in one book from my Aunt for a birthday gift this year (I REALLY wanted it), I promised myself I would read the books before watching the movies. So far I've read them all, and seen the '95 and '05 versions of P&P; the '95 version of S&S; and parts of both the '99 and '07 versions of "Mansfield Park" (Frankly, I was not impressed with either. I hardly recognized Fanny, they changed her so much!). I did one of the "Which Jane Austen Woman Are You?" quizzes before I had read them, and I was Anne Eliot from "Persuasion." When I finally read it, I really had to laugh! It was sooooo me!

Another thing I wanted to add was that in spite of not being a 20 something-year-old woman, my crusty, curmudgenly 32-year-old brother, who is married, and has five small sons, likes Jane Austen too! (A fact I was surprised to find out!)

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