I'm pretty sure this book is in need of no more reviews, given how widely read it is. Likely you know how you feel about Austen in general, or this book in specific. Anyway, I'm feeling a little lazy, so this review will have to be a short list, before I go back to my vacation lolling and eating too much. So:
1. General disclaimers about the Romantic novel:
I'm not going to entreat those to read it who have so far avoided it, though I will note that sometimes people mistake this for a Romantic novel. If you love the Romantic novel - and I mean this in its capital-R sense - you will possibly find this bloodless and mercantile - this is no moor-soaked hatecast like Wuthering Heights
. There are a few love stories, and they work out, but much of the "action", as it were, is social burlesque and cringing comedy. And I love Wuthering Heights
, don't get me wrong, but comparing these two does a disservice to them both.
I'm not sure how many times I've read this. Maybe four? Once in high school, once in college, both for classes, I think. A few vacation reads. Now. I've seen many of the movies, and a stage production at the Guthrie which I mix up with the Ollivier version, because I think they were both based on the same stage play, and had the same strange take on Lady Catherine's motivations. And the same weird Victorian dressings. I note different things in this each reread, and here I saw what a shitty dad Mr. Bennett was more clearly than before. It's easy to mistake him for a good father, because eyes are trained on what a voluble nightmare Mrs. Bennett is. There's an opening of one of the chapters which outlines his failings in terms of how Elizabeth sees the married state - as a chore, a mistake. And it is sometimes, but, I don't know, Charlotte. Charlotte is the question and the answer there. Maybe she makes a mistake accepting Collins, but she gets her living and a room of her own. Elizabeth and her father have the same appreciation of the follies of humanity, but his is uncut by affection. His distance, his bloodless superiority, is what Elizabeth learns to avoid through her relationship with Darcy, by holding back her laughter at Charlotte's choices. Because it's not fucking funny. It's not a tragedy either - and, speaking of the Romantic novel - I noticed this time that neither Charlotte nor Lydia are punished for their marital choices - not more than they would be anyway, just as a logical extension of who they are and who they marry. By all rights Lydia should get the consumption and die to prove to us that moral choices impact the physical or something. Probably Charlotte should die too, just for not being a romantic. Think about it - it's so cool that they don't.
My little eyes bugged out of my head a little when I read this monologue by Lydia, delivered after the sisters pick up Elizabeth after her stay in Kent, with the Collinses.
Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster's! Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the evening; (by the by, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!) and so she asked the two Harringtons to come: but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come herself; and then, what did you think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes, on purpose to pass for a lady, --only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt and two or three more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! How I laughed! and so did Mr. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something; and then they found out what was the matter.
One of the things I really enjoy about Austen in the teen comedy aspect in her books. That's probably more on display in something like Northanger Abbey, but there's plenty of bon mots and generally goofing in this to please me. And I had never before noticed this little bit of cross-dressing, coming as it does in a barrage of really funny stuff from Lydia. I'm too sleepy to come up with a good joke here, but given that the men in this anecdote are all militia members, you should workshop a DADT joke.
I think that might be it for now. I'm pretty sure it's time for a nap.