I’m not sure what number re-reading this is of Pride and Prejudice (P&P). If you count every couple of years since the age of 14, then it amounts to quite a surprising number. P&P is my most re-read book of all time and it’s appeal has been enduring. However, this re-read was different; two strange things occurred to me.
But first I must give you my thoughts on the actual story. It is difficult for me to review this book as it is a part of my life and means so much to me. It feels like getting together with a much loved, old friend who shares many memories and experiences. Jane Austen was incredibly insightful and sensitive to all the foibles and strengths of human nature, resulting in rich and intimate characterisations. Above all I think Austen is magnificent in her tender treatment of her characters, even the bad guys, and her capacity to write striking humour.
If you have never read P&P, then prepare to be surprised by a clever, funny and sharp portrayal of the machinations of parts of the class system of Regency England, with a healthy dose of romantic escapades.
It had been some years since I have read P&P and in the interim I have read some spin-offs, watched the Keira Knightley film version and of course the magnificent BBC series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. It has been some time since I have seen the Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier version film – which is lovely, but the not particularly authentic Regency period piece.
At least once or twice a year I will watch the series, it is so warm and completely faithful to the book written by Austen. This is where I experienced my little conflict whilst reading P&P this time.
When I read I have an imagery of the story playing in my mind on a constant basis, it isn’t something that I am particularly conscious of, apart from those stories that truly transport me and I get lost in another world. When reading P&P this time I could not get rid of the screenplay of the BBC series, the voices I heard in my mind were the actors and I found myself day dreaming to the next part of the series.
What does it all mean? Is this a reflection of how we experience literature through differing mediums and interpretations?
The second thing that struck me whilst reading P&P this time, is just how far technology has come and how old I am becoming. Familiar theme I know, but my old Pride & Prejudice book is over 30 years old now and as I settled myself into bed with my lamp on to read, I could not focus on the old yellowed pages – even with my glasses on!
As I still have not decided on an e-reader as yet, I down loaded the free version of P&P from iBooks. I didn’t need to give up reading the book, I just transferred medium. So here I was, reading a book on electronic media, images being brought into my head through memories of the a television series that is now 18 years old, for a book that has just celebrated its 200th birthday.
I think that qualifies Pride and Prejudice very nicely as a timeless classic in every sense.