My abiding love affair with Pride and Prejudice

In celebrity interviews, there is often this question – What are the 3 things no one knows about you? One day I sat down to ponder that question – yes, yes I have the time to think about these things – and realised that I can’t restrict the number of things people don’t know about me to just 3. So today I’m doing a Pride & Prejudice (P&P) version of the question. 

The 3 things you don’t know about me, here goes – 

I have read P&P (unabridged) at least 50 times if not more

There are a lot of Jane Austen Fan Clubs out there, but if there were ever to be a P&P Fan Club, I deserve to be its Chairperson. I love all Jane Austen books, but P&P has a special place in my heart, probably because I read it for the first time when I was 12 or 13 years old. Even at that age, I didn’t read an abridged version – even though I skipped all the conversations. I remember the book – it was kept on my Grandfather’s shelf and had thick black hardcover with gold lettering on the spine. Every time I read it, I realise how funny, wise and observant Jane Austen was at such a young age. I love the conversations in the book so much, and I pepper my conversations with lines from it. There are many men I have looked at and thought – tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me!!

No can deny that Jane Austen was one of the best satirists of her time, even though her novels were often overlooked – especially by men – for being mere domestic dramas. But for those of you who have ignored the book so far, believe me you have missed out on some great writing. I recommend you correct that mistake as soon as possible.

I have read, heard and absorbed the book in almost all its versions

In the 22 years since I read P&P for the first time, I have read or seen it in so many forms – graphic novels, comics, translations in Hindi, abridged classics for children, summaries, critical analyses, movies, audiobooks, etc. I can’t help myself – if I see something related to P&P, I get excited about it and voila; it goes into my shopping cart. And that’s not all, my love extends to P&P related merchandise as well. To that extent, I have a P&P Jigsaw puzzle, a stationery set, a puzzle book, an Austen book of quotes. Now I have my eye on a Mr Darcy board game. Maybe I could open a P&P museum one day, what say?

Then there are the Celluloid and TV adaptations. There is the famous 1995 BBC TV adaptation (starring Jennifer Ehle – Colin Firth) (sublime!), the Ang Lee movie adaptation (starring Keira Knightley) (tolerable!) and the Gurinder Chadha movie adaptation Bride and Prejudice (unforgivable!). There is also the lesser-known Doordarshan adaptation for TV – Trishna – now streaming on YouTube. Ladies, do yourself a favour and watch the BBC adaptation – there is something about Colin Firth emerging from the lake in a wet, white shirt that is quite difficult to forget!

By the way, in audiobooks, I recommend Rosamund Pike’s narration of P&P on Audible. She makes it come alive. Try it!

If they have adapted or retold it, I have read it

One of the best things about P&P is that there is so much writing around it – books inspired by it, adaptations, fan fiction, and modern retellings.

There is fan fiction – for those who don’t know what it is, it’s fiction written by a fan who cannot say goodbye to the book, the story and its characters. Since Ms Austen can no longer take the story forward, they decide to do it themselves. Many of them get published too – in fact, one of the most famous fan fiction writers is none other than EL James (author of the Fifty Shades trilogy) who used to write fanfiction for the Twilight series (by Stephenie Meyer). P&P attracts lots of fan fiction writers, and I have been tempted to write some myself a few times.

Fanfiction writers either rewrite the original story by changing one of the major plot points or take the story forward from where the original left off (like Lizzy and Darcy have children) or tell the original story from the perspective of a different character. Some of it is written very well and deserves to be read – whether or not you like P&P – like Longbourn (by Jo Baker) written from the perspective of the downstairs staff or Death Comes To Pemberley (by PD James) which continues the original story with a murder mystery. Some of it is worth one read at least – like The Other Bennet Sister (by Janice Hadlow) which tells Mary’s story and what happens to her once her sisters get married or Unequal Affections (by Lara S. Ormiston) in which Lizzy accepts Mr Darcy’s proposal the first time he asks her or An Assembly Such as this (by Pamela Aidan) which takes us inside Mr Darcy’s head. A lot of the fanfiction though is quite bad – mostly it is self-published, full of steamy sex scenes and can have many grammatical errors. Even though a lot of such fan fiction is available for free on the internet or Kindle Unlimited, I suggest you read at your own risk (the one you can try is The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow).

But my favourite kind of writing inspired from P&P is a contemporary adaptation – the kind which retells the story in a completely new (and often modern) setting. Many authors have attempted to reimagine P&P in a completely different milieu, and I have read most of such retellings.

Since this post has already become too long, I will share with you some of my favourite modern P&P retellings in my next post. In the meantime, try your hand at some books mentioned above. You never know, you may find your new favourite read.

Ciao!

~P

Like Jane Austen? So do I

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