Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reader's Diary #295 - Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (up to Ch. 46)

I don't remember ever wanting to like a book as much as this one. When I put Austen up against other authors in the Great Wednesday Compare I was overwhelmed by the number of fans that showed up in her favour. Never had I met a bunch of people so devoted to a single author before. I had yet to read a Jane Austen novel and this was the sign I needed to rectify that.

And yet, I'm less than enthralled. I can't get into it at all! In the book's defense, I just took a trip to Ottawa and so maybe the distractions of traveling didn't help. But I don't think it's just that.

I've finding the language so stilted and dated that I'm not able to connect (this coming from someone who likes Shakespeare). I understand that a major motive of the book seemed to be to satirize many societal conventions at the time, but I'm not sure if that's the case with the language. Maybe it's just a product of its time and place. Maybe I'm just not open-minded enough.

I also find it hard to relate to any of the characters. Gossipy and judgemental, they're a difficult bunch to like. And again, this may be satire, but if so the point wears itself thin with me. Perhaps Elizabeth and her father are okay and Darcy seems to be coming around, but even then, I don't really care about the predictable ending just around the corner.

I really hope my indifference lifts soon. I so badly want to understand the appeal.


Allison said...

I'm with you on this one. I have tried numerous times to enjoy this book and have failed each time. Its just not for everyone.

raidergirl3 said...

I liked it enough, but it went on forever... It felt like 500 pages long, I could not read it quickly.
I prefer Bridget Jones, and her Mark Darcy.

Heather said...

I liked this novel but perhaps it was the predictablity that appealed to me at the time. I understand what you're saying about the stilted conversation patterns and I found I had that problem when I read The Moonstone (excellent book despite the stilted-ness).

John Mutford said...

Allison: That's exactly the way I feel. Not that I hate the book, just that it's not for me.

Raidergirl: It's reminding me of Tess of the D'Ubervilles that way (which btw, is the only book I've never finished).

Heather: I can see predictability as comforting sometimes. Plus, sometimes I think authors try too hard in the other direction and tack on an ending that just comes out of left field.

Imani said...

While for me, Austen's language is a primary part of her appeal. It moves so quickly for me, and I can settle into it so comfortably.

It's a good thing I don't require everyone to like her style. ;)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I actually went through a Jane Austen period as a teenager, but looking back I'm not sure I would have the patience to deal with the pace and the stilted language you mention.

John Mutford said...

Imani: I'm glad I'm still in your good books!

Barbara: It's funny. I probably would have had more patience as a teenager as well.

Anonymous said...

Our language has changed so much and our world is so fast paced that Jane's witty words seem stilted to so many people these days. Once one gets the hang of the language (and there is an art to it; and, yes, it does require patience) one is rewarded with such richly drawn characters as the pompous and obsequious Mr. Collins, and the overbearing know-it-all, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who in all seriousness pronounced to her assembled guests:

"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"

To each his own preferences, and I applaud you for giving Jane a try.

Anonymous said...

I like Jane Austen but then I like a lot of other authors (mostly deceased) whose styles do seem stilted compared to modern style.
I wouldn't get upset about not liking it though!
(I sympathise about wanting so badly to understand the appeal)
People can be book snobs and I don't care if a book is popular or not..
Luckily there are TONS of thousands of other books to enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

I like P&P so dearly, I just can't explain that, and that language is part of the wonder, compared with most of her relatives Elisabeth is such a bright character. But I think that, to enjoy such a book you must forget all the happy ending tales, you must forget that many victorian novels end well, and you will read Jane Austen has I did, and hurry through the pages to know if Elisabeth lets Darcy go away with his handsome mien, his beautiful property and so on. He is a prince charming, and contrary to bingley he is handsome AND intelligent! By the way, if you don't like the book, watch the film, it's very good too. Excuse my poor English and enjoy your reading...
A french reader