What better way to start the summer than reading a 740 page annotated version of Pride and Prejudice? Fun, right? I decided to read it in a little over two weeks, hoping to finish it before I left on a family vacation (thankfully, I was successful). In the process, I learned that I am not a Jane Austen fan, this being the first of her novels that I have read in its entirety. While I'm glad that I had an opportunity to read Pride and Prejudice
, I wouldn't voluntarily pick up another Jane Austen novel at the moment. Pride and Prejudice
should sate any desire to read a classic for quite some time.
For my eleventh grade English class, we were required to purchase and read the annotated edition. I was initially very optimistic about the annotations, hoping that they would facilitate an easier and faster understanding of the text. Unfortunately, as I began reading, I noticed that many of the annotations were unnecessary, or rambled on about completely unrelated topics. While some of the annotations proved to be very helpful, the book could have been significantly shorter in the absence of the extraneous ones, such as images of architecture and carriages that existed at the time.
I found the plot to be very dull, putting me to sleep on more than one occasion (which is definitely saying something because I rarely fall asleep while reading). The events seemed monotonous and nondescript, leading to a dragging and nearly nonexistent plot. The story could have been easily compressed into 5 pages or less.
Austen's style of writing left something to be desired. Her formality made the narrative appear stiff and forced. The characters came across as shallow and lacking depth. They were much too focused on adhering to societal norms to develop a personality and sense of individuality. Consequently, the relationships and romances present throughout the book were equally superficial, often surrounding money and social status. Austen's writing seemed to promote the stereotype that women married solely for money, a generalization that Austen herself refused to succumb to.
While I did not wholeheartedly despise Pride and Prejudice
it will not be making my list of all time favorite books. It certainly had its ups and downs, but on a much smaller scale than most novels today. While I wasn't overly fond of the characters, plot, or writing style, it did have a few redeeming qualities, such as a few sharp, witty remarks and the sappy romances that developed. Inevitably, I will be reading more works by Jane Austen at some point in the future and will (hopefully) be able to approach them with an open mind.
Mark Twain had the right idea:
“I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone!”