Valentines Book Review: Pride and Prejudice

The genius of Jane Austen aside, I have to admit that this story held very  few surprises for me. Thanks to movies, cultural allusions, and adaptations, I read this book feeling very much like I had read it already. Several times. And yet…

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There is a reason Austen’s six novels (she died too early!) are all classics. There is a reason Pride and Prejudice has been remade several times and adapted into other forms and stories. Sure, not everyone is going to read Austen because she is from another place and time, so her writing is “old fashioned.” But if you are someone who doesn’t mind a little heavier reading, then her books are a must-read. And yes, they are not literary fiction—more popular—but that would only serve to recommend her to some people. Even if you are a literary fiction person, if you could just chill out for a second, you might learn a thing or one hundred from Austen’s writing and even enjoy the actual story.

As far as the writing, it’s definitely credible. I’m not blown away by descriptions or the poetry of the language, but the writing is a clear and straight-forward vehicle for the acrobatics that will thrill, which are more in the wit-vein. The writing is engaging, too, by keeping you on the edge of your seat at almost all times and showing much more than telling. And you have to stay on your toes (oh, mixed metaphors again!) because if you don’t pay attention you will miss much in her books (and even the movies). Austen’s subtlety and layers of interactions are one of the most genius things about her writing. Hardly ever is a scene meant to be read on only one level, and somehow she conveys to us the interpretations of several characters all at once. I feel fully engaged while reading Austen, and Pride and Prejudice is no exception. It also contains Austen’s characteristic engaging, well-drawn characters, great (and frequent) plot twists, and most of all, wit, humor, and amazingly crafted situations. She is known as a romance novelist, but her comedy and depth, even her wisdom and preservation of a small society in history, should also be admired. I mean, part of the real charm of her stories arises from the strangeness that was Victorian society, especially the regency era and in the upper classes. But the way she captured the tensions and absurdities—! This is how you tell a frickin’ story, folks.

As for Pride and Prejudice, specifically, it is her most popular book and the romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy is considered one of the great love stories of all time. These two characters are the “pride” and “prejudice” of the title, though those words have slightly different meanings to us modern readers than to what a Victorian reader would have understood. Pride was a two-sided coin, with dignity and right behavior (and breeding) on one side and vanity (bad) on the other. Prejudice just refers to letting first impressions and presuppositions reign, like judging a book by its cover. If you don’t already know the story (which it is highly likely you do), then it is about the Bennet family and their five, country gentlemen’s daughters. The two eldest daughters are quite pretty, sensible, and even-keeled, while the mother and the younger three are just a hot mess of loud-mouthed and inappropriate. An eligible, rich bachelor moves to town and all sorts of antics ensue which involve not only the man and his two snobby sisters (and of course various schemes for marrying into money), but also his BFF, Darcy, who it appears can barely stand to look down his nose as these country bumpkins. A large cast of characters gets all up in the business, including the rogue Whickham and a whole gaggle of soldiers, the neighbors, and a handful of other relatives representing the gone-wrong and gone-right versions of the basically middle class and also the practicality of marrying for security.

Austen basically invented the romance, and she understood some things about story from the very beginning: characters change; there are enormous stakes; all the good guys must fall into a dark night of the soul; everyone is not what they immediately appear; etc. By the way, this is romance but much more “innocent” due to the time period. It is also not just romance. It’s, as I said, comedy and well, just popular fiction as well. But the love stories in Austen are what really appeal to most people. They are complicated and compelling and we are so afraid that everything might fall apart while we’re reading. If you’re concerned the stories might be a touch out of touch (aka anti-feminist), then I don’t think you need to really worry. Of course we don’t approve of the way that property is handed down in Victorian England or that a woman had to marry in order to survive (and couldn’t, like, chose to have a job or something), but neither does Austen, as far as I can tell. Elizabeth Bennet (and the other heroines) are pretty feisty for their time period, and do often express forward-thinking ideas. And they frequently resolve to go it alone until they accidentally fall in love. And, sorry, but everybody wants love (except sociopaths).

(Unimportant note: I do not enjoy reading books that are in one, giant binding with other books. It makes me feel like I’m getting nowhere fast and also they are not practical to carry around town. Also, my old version has quite a few typos.)

Pride and Prejudice is a great story. The only downside is if you have watched the movies too many times that you can’t be surprised. Even so, I enjoyed reading it because it is, in the end, the best version of the story and I always read Austen while admiring her deft skills. Classic. Just classic.


“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us” (p241 in The Modern Library’s The Complete Novels of Jane Austen).

“…but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement” (p242).

“Women fancy admiration means more than it does” (p313).

“I have no idea of there being so much design [conspiracy] in the world as some persons imagine” (p313).

“…handsome young men must have something to love on as well as the plain” (p322).

“My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible” (p460).


It appears that maybe a year ago I watched a number of the Pride and Prejudice movies/series and adaptations, and then didn’t review a single one. What the turd? Well, I will go ahead and rewatch some of them for you, leave some to your own viewing, and do a light review of those I am just not going to re-watch at this point in time. I will do this in real-time and update the reviews as I watch.

Pride and Prejudice (1940) (also ‘52, ‘58, ‘67) – This black and white version (and these other black and white versions) started early with film adaptations of Austen. The first one is said to be fairly inaccurate to the text, and I’m not sure that I will get around to them, though the 1940 version still gets good reviews.

Pride and Prejudice (1980) – This British miniseries is considered one of the most true to the original. I may watch it. We’ll see.

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Pride and Prejudice (1995) – This BBC miniseries (I think six episodes) is also considered pretty darn true to the novel and looks to be pretty accurate to the historical period. That’s why the miniseries: so they could include it all. I have watched this a few times, including right now, actually, and I have mixed feelings about it. The best part is that Colin Firth plays Darcy (a role which he would basically reprise in Bridget Jones’ Diary) and he became, with it, the quintessential Darcy. But I have this unaccountable dislike for the gal who plays Elizabeth and the way that she plays it (so oddly smug and not near enough spunk. The book version of her is much better.) And, fine, be accurate or whatever, but I can appreciate a more stylized version. I mean, something like Bridgerton is a lot more satisfying stylistically because it’s hip and full or eye candy even though it stretches authenticity to its limit (or actually past it, but in the name of relevance and art). But just so you know, this one is always highly rated and it’s likely you’ll enjoy it.

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Pride and Prejudice (2005) – I have also watched this a few times. My main complaint is that Keira Knightley can, in no way, shape or form, pull off the less-attractive sister. I don’t know why they tried. Seriously. Other than that, it’s a great movie with great cinematic moments, cinematography, and settings. It’s pretty truncated and therefore misses a whole lot (and also some of the characters are not really in the right spirit for the original), but it’s a beautiful, romantic movie and I would—probably will—watch it again. I suppose this is my favorite, so far and is acceptable to me mostly because I know the full story from the book and other movies. (Note that I also have favorites for each character in different versions. If only Colin Firth were in this version…)

ADAPTATIONS (the most lauded ones)

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (2003) – It’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and takes place in modern-day Utah, I’m imagining in Mormon culture. I plan to check it out, but so far have not found where it is available.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) – I’ve been avoiding this for years because I don’t like gore and am a scaredy cat. The books it is based on is not in my TBR. But I think I have gotten curious enough to give it a try. And yes, it involves zombies as well as the Revolutionary War. My husband has even said he’ll watch this one with me, so I think I’ll read the book and then invite him along.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy (2016) – a Hallmark movie with a dog show/show dogs. Hmm…

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Bride and Prejudice (2004) – I’m definitely going to finally watch this Bollywood version. And a few days later, I have. I have mixed feelings about this version, made by the director of Bend It Like Beckham, a movie I love and a director I usually like. The reason for my mixed feelings is that it is a bit spoofy, like tongue-in-cheek, or like it’s poking fun at the genres (meaning Bollywood films and Victorian romance) while also being both (taking place in modern times). That is not what I expected. And, unfortunately, it feels dated because it doesn’t have the kind of budget or cinematography that could have made it more timeless. Still, I would recommend watching this, understanding that it is a musical and that it is a little on the goofy side. Truth is that I love Indian movies, musicals, British movies, rom-coms… this should be a clear winner for me. It was and it wasn’t. In the end, it might even be my favorite of all the movies, but I need to sit on that for a while. If only I had known what to expect.

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe (2018) – a Hallmark, Christmas version. Maybe next Christmas?

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Austenland (2013) – which I watched last time I was on an Austen movie kick. I forgot to review it, though I swear I did. Maybe it’s in an older journal. I remember liking it to a point. Well worth the watch. Predictable. Funny to a point. Innovative to a point. A fangirl goes on a vacation to an immersive Jane Austen resort. Austen-like plots unfurl, but with modern twists. If you are an Austen fan, definitely watch it. Even if you just like rom-coms, this is cute.

Christmas at Pemberley Manor (2018) – and more Hallmark, more Christmas. Who knew?

Bridget Jones Diary (2001) – yeah, I know this one, intimately. And I wrote a review when I read the book a few years ago. Here is that review: “Like I said, I watch this movie every pre-Christmas holiday. It is, like its counterpart, a classic of popular cinema. It is similar in tone to the book [Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding], although, like I said, the story itself is pretty different, borrowing scenarios from the book more than the actual story. Zellweger famously put on weight for her role, and everyone does a great job acting out the people who rotate around her. Full of classic scenes (which were not usually from the book). Grant plays a great rogue. Firth a great, bumbling but accomplished nice guy. Etc. It’s a well-put-together romantic comedy of the blockbuster sort. And if you’re an Anglophile… Easter egg alert: Both Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are mentioned in the book, which is awesome because they became the two actors who played the male counterparts to Renee Zellweger’s Bridget.” I didn’t even mention Pride and Prejudice in the review because I have seen the movie so many times I forget that’s even where the story comes from. It should be mentioned that Colin Firth is considered the quintessential Darcy (see above) and reprises his role here as Mark Darcy as a modern day barrister opposite Rene Zellweger’s Bridget Jones (feisty-pants Elizabeth Bennet) and Hugh Grant stands in as a type of Whickham (though not that much of the actual story is retained, just the idea of the romance, really).

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) – This miniseries is meant as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, so it goes off-script completely. I have meant to watch it, and so I probably will now.

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Lost in Austen (2008) – This modern take (with a classic switcheroo) looks similar to Austenland. I would like to watch it. Aaaand… watched it. Hm, hm, hm. It is a miniseries with four episodes. In it, an Austen fan with a lackluster love life ends up switching places with Elizabeth Bennet right before the story (in the novel) begins. While the heroine, Amanda (Miss Price), is a kind and considerate soul, she is also relatively headstrong and uncouth (read: alarming and forward and unacceptable), considering where she came from (as in modern times). But since she’s read Pride and Prejudice until she has parts of it memorized, she wings it enough to pass a little. Until–without Elizabeth and with her–the story goes careening off the tracks and, when she tries to fix things, she makes a huge mess of it all. The tension in this story is how long will she be there lost in Austen, will Lizzie ever return, and should she be trying to preserve the story or just carve out a new happy ending for herself and all her new friends? It was the opposite of flashy, the Roku TV version kept skipping parts during commercials, and I was conflicted about the ending, but otherwise yes, I would recommend you watch it. I do wish she had done something different with her hair, that the series acknowledged more of the reality of the situation (like how her hair would have grown out and faded, etc.), and not ended the whole thing at the denouement. (I understand why writers are afraid of resolutions, but still they should attempt them.) It’s cute, well-acted, and keeps you guessing, which is not usually available in a Pride and Prejudice remake. Part of the fun was when the writer went off-script, revealing secrets of the characters that could have been behind the original story, weaving the actual events into what changes because there is no Lizzie and there is a Miss Price. The movie did not do the sisters much justice, but I think because it’s too short of a time to follow all the characters like the book does.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-13) – I have never before heard of this, but the modern YouTube miniseries looks completely innovative. I plan to give it a looky-loo. Okay, now I have heard of it and I have moved the book to my TBA, so I will not be watching it until after reading the book.


I am intrigued by fan fic. I don’t really feel like I have the time in my life or TBR to read it, but I have decided to explore it through “the best” Pride and Prejudice adaptations and perhaps, someday, reading All the Young Dudes (the top Harry Potter fic story for several years and counting). Note that “fan fic” refers more to stuff that’s written for books not yet in the public domain and therefore unable to generate income for the writer. The books below are therefore “adaptations” or, in some cases, “retellings.” The books will be reviewed as usual through their own blog entries.

  • Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding *
  • 1932: Pride and Prejudice Revisited, Karen Cox
  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, Sonali Dev
  • Pride and Premeditation, Tirzah Price
  • Unmarriageable, Soniah Kamal
  • An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Pamela Aidan
  • Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, Melizza de la Cruz
  • Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jalaluddin
  • Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Amanda Grange
  • Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld *
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Longbourn, Jo Baker
  • The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, Jennifer Paynter
  • The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
  • Pride, Ibi Zoboi

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