Book Review: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

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Plot: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
–penguinrandomhouse.com 

I started to write this already at the halfway mark of the book, so as to not forget any of my thoughts. I can tell you that I am going to pretend I am British for another week now (the same inevitably happens when I watch Downton Abbey). I had the best time working through Pride and Prejudice and can really not think of a time this year when I felt so content reading any book.

This is finally a successful attempt at reading Pride and Prejudice – the first time I picked it up I only managed to get through half of the book. I have no idea why, perhaps I just wasn’t as inclined as I was this time around. I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies AGAIN the other day, and I love the 2005 adaption of this novel with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. The plot speaks to me on many levels – the unerring feminism of Elizabeth Bennet, the courage of Jane Austen to write about Elizabeth Bennet, the love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I can tell you now that I find difficult people so much more appealing than the Mr. Bingleys of the world. Their loyalty is ultimately more rewarding and unyielding. Pride can be attractive in any person. Mr. Darcy is a difficult man, but truly appealing. It is fun to find a character that isn’t written in the typical hero fashion – he’s so ornery and stubborn and proud.

The differences between the movies and the original work are perhaps not significant but the book is naturally more illustrative to the characters. Mr. Wickham is even slimier than his onscreen presence shows, Mr. Collins is a phenomenal, pompous and amazingly irritating pain in the ass.  Mrs. Bennet is truly an embarrassment to her offspring. Her antics are mortifying and she has a cold disregard to Elizabeth that is not shown often in a film adaption. She never ceased her ambition to have her daughters favorably married. Whatever true care she felt for each of them was very much overshadowed by her need to see her daughters settled with men of high fortunes. It was embarrassing.

There is only one section that felt tiresome eventually. The section where Lydia runs of with Wickham is pivotal in the romance of Elizabeth and Darcy, but it really took an extraordinary amount of pages to get through. The conclusion of Pride and Prejudice is the most delightful British ending you can hope for. Feelings are expressed in the utmost British way – please tell me they are still like this! – and the overpowering sweetness of Darcy’s happiness when Elizabeth expresses her love and admiration is lovely. I really did enjoy how sweet he became eventually when he was around her, and that the strength of his feelings could make him do such introspection and radical personal change.

The theme of the book is clear the very descriptive title, but there are also themes of family, learning to look deeper into a person and not expressing yourself in anger – Elizabeth’s family had quite the shock when she professed to love the man she had been so against the majority of the time she’d known him.

Pride and Prejudice really isn’t a quick and easy read, and it takes time to get yourself acquainted with the author’s writing. It is high English, and it was a good exercise for me as a predominantly Afrikaans speaking person to read through it. You also really need to be in the mood to read this book, it isn’t going to be pleasing or successful if you want a fast read.

I am giving this a 9.5/10. It is a very high rating, yes, but I found it very deserving of the classic cult status and many adaptions it has gone through. I really enjoyed it so much! One of my favorite books this year!

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Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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Plot: Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies

Rating: 8.5/10

ERRR-EM-GHEE. I LOVED THIS.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, let me tell you, this film was tailor made for me. I am 1) a huge fan of the original work despite having to fully read the book 2) detailing on that means that I’ve seen the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden and I consider myself an expert 3) I’ve read the book about halfway but olden English can be challenging and I’m just an Afrikaans Girl in an English world – which should be a song or at least a blogpost 4) I’ll stop sounding deranged now and actually review this.

This movie is really Pride and Prejudice but with Zombies. Exactly. It is based on the successful adaption / parody by Seth Graham-Smith, and if the book is like the movie, I am so on board with reading it (a little flip from how I usually approach things). I’m a little sad that this film didn’t do great in cinema because it is so much fun.

I thought Lily James made the perfect Elizabeth Bennet. Ms. Bennet has always been the original feminist, and adding some ass kicking skills to her resume only made her seem more so. Excluding Mr. Darcy, the females in the film does the majority of zombie slashing and there is an underlying humor that suggests that the men are a bit more afraid than the ladies of zombies. Lily was as sassy and as proper as Jane requires of a character, and had undeniable chemistry with Sam Riley – a crucial element in making the relationship dynamic between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth work out.

Initially I was a bit concerned with Mr. Darcy being portrayed by Sam Riley. It is a really difficult thing to pull off – being a bit of a prick while still being able to be compelling and attractive. Sam Riley has a really weird voice – it took a while to get used to. However, he was able to portray the character with conviction and before long I was so on board with him. He was tormented and unamused and serious and it was so hot man. The chemistry between Lily James and Sam Riley is kind of through the roof. It was really hot in a dignified way.

As for the rest of the cast, you will see some Charles Dance and Lena Headley, Matt Smith and Douglas Booth (notably). There were some new names that I haven’t seen on screen before, like Bella Heathcote that did a really good job with Jane Bennet, a tricky role because the character needs to be beautiful and shy without being a pain in the ass. Jack Huston played Mr. Wickham. I’m starting to recognize Huston more and more on screen and he seems to be a fine actor that is going somewhere. He has a specific period look that suited the film well, and was sufficiently slimy in his portrayal of Mr. Wickham. Lena Headley was way underused – the woman has a comedic ability that is suppressed in Game of Thrones. I am always a huge fan of any person that emits sarcasm through every pore in their body and Headley manages that with aplomb.

The pace of the film is good, it is neither too long nor too short. I was ready to riot a few minutes before the end – watch it to see why – and I was spared this use of energy a few moments later when I was really happy with the end.

I really never knew that I needed a version of Pride vs. Prejudice with zombies, but let me tell you, my life is so much better for it now!