by Anna Campbell
It's my first review with the Dishies! Hiya Gannon, PJ, Buffie and Andrea! Not to mention my Bandita pal Trish Milburn. I'm stoked to be working with you! This site is going to become a phenomenon. You mark my words.
Long live the Romance Dish! Long may its deliciousness pervade my world!
Right, having got that off my chest, I'd better introduce myself.
I'm going to be a regular here reviewing romance classics and books I like, probably, although not necessarily, older books that you might have missed. Kind of what I used to do once a month at RNTV. Occasionally I might throw in something about a research book - I've noticed people find research books pretty interesting!
So please swing by on the 24th of each month for my Second Helping!
I thought I'd start my reviewing career on the Romance Dish at the top. Yep, I'm tackling the book that's often called the most perfect novel in the English language, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen.
Do I feel presumptuous? Yup! Is it going to stop me? Nup! Am I going to leap on this as an opportunity for some serious eye candy? Is the Pope a Catholic? Do bears sh...
Oh, right. Reviewing the glorious and very fastidious Jane, I should remember my manners. I beg your pardon, gentle readers. There will be no further references to bears and their digestive processes in the verdant wildness of the adjacent woodland.
I first read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE when I was about twelve. I remember loving it although it wasn't much like the movie - my mother had a huge crush on Laurence Olivier so I can't tell you how many times I'd watched the Greer Garson/L.O. version with her. I've read the book numerous times since although not for about fifteen years or so now.
And in that 15 years, of course, the world has gone completely Jane Austen mad!
Movies, TV series, sequels, zombies! A poor Jane-o-phile had no idea where to look! Well, I kinda looked at Matthew Macfadyen but that's purely personal taste.
Coming back to reading the book last week, I realized that I was seeing the story through the filter of all the celluloid adaptations. One of the things I immediately noticed is that Jane's humor can be waspish and misanthropic - I'd remembered gently ironic but, no, a lot of this was firmly on the b*tchy side. The adaptations really soften Jane's judgments on her characters, even the awful ones! This time around, my first impression was that Lizzie was self-satisfied and too clever for her own good and Darcy was a humorless stick!
So is this going to be a bad review? How incredibly brave!!!!
Of course, it isn't going to be a bad review! Although I must admit the first chapters were a bit of a struggle - perhaps because I'd expected to dive in and adore the story as I had every other time I'd read it.
Do you know who saved the book for me? That most unlikely of heroes MR. COLLINS! He's such a marvelously written comic character - the scene where he proposes to Lizzie is an absolute corker and he brightens every page he ventures upon. I don't want to marry Darcy. I'm clearly nowhere near good enough for him. I want to marry Mr. Collins and live across the road from Lady Catherine de Bourgh!
Of course, Mr. Collins enters the story about the same point where I think Miss Austen's fondness for her characters starts peeping through and some warmth builds in the story. Lizzie is less all-knowing (she's going through the Wickham debacle at that stage which is definitely a lapse in judgment) and Darcy is starting to show a few cracks in his shell of invulnerable perfection. And the book just gets better and better as it charts their difficult courtship. Actually JA does a top job of proposals - Darcy's rejected proposal is another corker of a scene. And by the time Lizzie catches up with Darcy at Pemberley, I was devouring the book like I devoured the latest Liz Carlyle.
And of course, we get the lovely sigh-worthy ending. Although I'm enough of a romance reader to wish that we'd actually heard Darcy's declarations of being 'violently in love' instead of just being told about them. By the end, we know he's a true hero and man of honor, a man willing to sacrifice his dearest wishes (and his well-developed pride) for the sake of the woman he loves. So he might miss the occasional joke - we'll forgive him that after he saves Lizzie and her family from absolute disaster when Lydia elopes with Wickham.
I'm pretty sure academics would take a different view of the book. But hey, I'm a romance reader at heart! The romance is the bit that works for me the best. And while some people mightn't admit it, I suspect the romance is one of the chief reasons it's stayed in people's hearts so long. There's definitely elements of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast operating here so PRIDE AND PREJUDICE fits into my definition of classic fairytale romance!
So have you read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? How do you feel the book stacks up against the adaptations? And (this is always a favorite question!) do you have a favorite adaptation? I've included illustrations to inspire the discussion!