It is a truth universally acknowledged that a review of Jane Austen’s work is superfluous. Yet here I am anyway.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. From my first reading as a teenager, taking extended “bathroom breaks” to read the small hardback with tiny print which I hid under the sink for such occasions (sorry, Mom!), I fell in love with Austen’s wit and style, her characters, and her well-paced story.
Published in 1813 and popular from the beginning, there is plenty of scholarship out there if you are interested in that. And it’s so well known that I don’t know that I can add much here but if for some reason you’d like a refresher, here’s a summary:
Mr. & Mrs. Bennet live in a village in Hertfordshire with their five daughters. They are not poor, but having no male heir and not being frugal, the daughters will have to rely on marrying well for future economic stability.
The novel opens with the arrival of two handsome and eligible bachelors to the neighborhood: Mr. Bingley (sweet and outgoing) and Mr. Darcy (introverted and has some…pride). The story follows the shenanigans of Mrs. Bennet’s attempts to marry off her daughters and how that works out for them all.
The Bennets’ second daughter, Elizabeth, is the protagonist of the novel, and she is active, energetic, outgoing, smart, and witty—and also opinionated and believes strongly in first impressions (so she can be…prejudiced). She is a fun character to follow, and she goes through a lot of growth by the novel’s end.
The characters are so well-drawn and the comic characters are both pretty great and ridiculous (but also can be dangerous and/or disappointing to their families). The book balances getting to know the many characters with a good bit of plot–we don’t sit around too long before the next event, and I appreciate that she keeps everything moving.
This book is rightly considered a classic, but I think it’s pretty approachable as well. While there are details like the entail of the Bennet property and other manners that can be confusing to the modern reader, the plot moves along and the characters are interesting that parts of it feel fairly modern. While the 19th century was a while ago and manners have changed, people are still people–that has not changed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★