Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

I've just finished Pride and Prejudice, and I'm very surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. I'd only read one other of Austen's works prior to this: Emma, which I felt I needed to read after being cast1 as Frank Churchill in a stage adaptation of that story back in 2003. While I didn't hate it, I didn't think it anything special.

Having seen the superb 1995 BBC miniseries version – with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle – I knew the story; it wasn't as if there were any surprises in store regarding the plot. I certainly enjoyed the series, but I thought that was more a result of the adaptation, which had high production values on top of the stellar cast.

But soon after I started reading I realised that, underlying the story and the characters and social commentary that I'd enjoyed in the adaptation, there was some truly delightful prose – and I'm very, very fond of prose. Especially hilarious, snarky prose – of which there is no shortage. Lizzie's descriptions of her oleaginous cousin Mr Collins2 and her conversations with the odious Lady Catherine De Bourgh had me in stitches.

The question now is which of Austen's other novels do I attack next – Sense and Sensibility I know a little about, having seen bits and pieces of the Emma Thompson film version; it therefore seems reasonable to put it at the top of the list.

1Or, as I like to put it, miscast; I'm no Frank Churchill.
2Who, incidentally, is a reverend – given that Rev. Elton in Emma was a similarly unpleasant character, it appears that Jane Austen had a strong distaste for clergymen.

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