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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen: Review

The five Bennet daughters of Longbourne Estate have their life's goal laid out by society and their meddling mother, in equal parts—to marry and marry well.

Fortunately, two of the country's most eligible bachelors have just taken up residence right next door. Unfortunately, Lizzy Bennet's prejudiced opinions and the pride of handsome Mr. Darcy are set on a collision course that just might obliterate any hope of a happy ending—at the very least, any hope of a simple one.

Pride and Prejudice was my first brush with the prose of Jane Austen, and while I wouldn't elevate it to the level of my favourite Dickens books, I certainly did enjoy it! The social intricacies of upper-class Victorian England are taken so seriously it's positively comical, although there is a disturbing aspect as well: any society where manners, breeding, and (most importantly) wealth determine the value of a human is more misguided than refined. Pride and Prejudice offers a glimpse into that delicate Victorian world through an opinionated young woman who sees more clearly than her peers in some ways . . . but is just as blind in others.

Lizzy is a character made interesting by her opinions. Unlike her frivolous younger sisters and grating mother, she values character more than wealth, looks, and social norms, and fancies herself a pretty fine judge of it. That's how she justifies her instant resentment of the intolerable Mr. Darcy—which is entertaining for the reader, if less justifiable than she thinks. Hence, the prejudice.

Mr. Darcy, for his part, is a closed book that we only begin to understand in glimpses. His pride throws another wrench in his already tense relationship with Lizzy, but prejudice rears its ugly head on his end, too. Neither of them is guiltless, but both are endearing and misunderstood and loveably awful at communicating their innermost feelings. I loved watching circumstances, revelations, and a good draught of humility slowly draw the two of them onto a converging path.

Notes: the writing is dense and sometimes cumbersome, but by no means inaccessible. The story also drags at times, but I think it paints a realistic picture of the pace at which resentment can soften into love—not overnight, not in a blink, but with understanding, the benefit of the doubt, and a generous slice of humble pie.

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