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.