The Short Version: The Bennet sisters are five young eligible bachelorettes. Upon the arrival of a rich young gentleman at a neighboring estate, marriage plots (not that kind) are hatched – and an obstinate antagonism between two kindred spirits slowly warms into romance.
The Review: So, after all this time… all these attempts… #Austen2013 gets off to an impressive start simply in that I finished this novel.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve tried – and failed – to read this novel before. Several times, in fact. Definitely two, possibly three times. And why did I fail in those endeavors? Because I grew weary and bored – and never stuck around long enough to catch the more exciting bits as they came along. And they do come along, that’s the thing. The relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is everything it’s cracked up to be – and the writing simply crackles when it involves the two of them. But for fuck’s sake, the trials and tribulations surrounding the rest of the characters in this novel can get tedious.
The weird thing is, I’m not even opposed to stories where the action is pretty much all talking and romantic intrigue. I actually really dig that from time to time – so what is it about this book that frustrated me so? Having finished it – and appreciated it much more in the finishing – I still honestly can’t put my finger on it. Because I can’t think of a single thing to cut, necessarily. The story – stories, really, if you want to take Lizzy/Jane/Lydia/Darcy/Bingley/the rest of the Bennets as individual story tracks – is so lifelike that you can’t trim it, not really. Perhaps it was that: that I felt the way I do about some hyper-realistic films and stage pieces, which is to say that even in my modestly somewhat extraordinary life, I go through plenty of ordinary moments. I don’t feel the need to see them laid out in front of me in all their ugly ordinariness. I go to art forms (of whatever kind) for the moments that lift above the ordinary, even if they’re simply ordinary moments told magically.
This is all somewhat irrelevant, though – for two reasons. One, how can I (how can anyone, at this point) truly judge this novel? Even moreso than it being Jane Austen and she’s esteemed as one of the best, ever – this story, in particular, is such a part of our popular consciousness that it doesn’t even really necessarily seem all that surprising. Not only could I predict the ending, I realized that I wasn’t predicting it but rather I knew it (if you catch my semantic hairsplitting). The story is almost unjudgeable, if I may make that statement. The second point, though, is that Austen’s writing is actually deliciously clever and the bright points of the novel far and away make up for the duller moments. Give me Lizzy and Darcy carefully testing each other’s defenses any day – that is what romance ought to be. I’m not afraid or ashamed to say it: romance is two people who look up to each other based squarely on ability and intellect, regardless of their background or social standing or whatever.
I also… it must be said. It must. I’m sorry. I now not only understand why I’ve been told by so many people that I must read this novel, posthaste. It isn’t because it is one of those novels – although it is and, so, yes, sure – but rather because of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I will not say more, because I’ve already self-aggrandized my ego enough simply by bringing it up. But. Yes. Thank you, all of you – I get it now.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Look, I’m not going to lie to you. There were STILL times where I was bored. Like, BORED. But I stuck it out because there was bound to be a ball or a strongly worded letter coming sooner or later and, sure enough, something with a little more oomph would then ensue. And, as Lizzy and Darcy spiral closer and closer to each other, I couldn’t help but root for those crazy kids. May we all be so lucky.