Today marks 200 years since Jane Austen’s most-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice was published.
I learned to love Austen at an early age. I am sure my high school English teacher mom has something to do with this fact. The quintessential film adaptation of an Austen book – the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth came out when I was in 5th grade. While I could not understand all of the nuances then the story, the costuming, and the characters mesmerized me.
** Sidenote: It always bothered me that Jennifer Ehle, who is such a beauty, was described in the movie as not as beautiful as her sister Jane who I perceived as slightly horsey-faced. Years later I asked my British Literature teacher in high school (who was from England), who was more beautiful – Jane or Lizzie in the BBC adaptation, and Mr. Vickers supported Jane. I have thus decided that British men prefer their women thin and drawn while Americans prefer fuller, rosy cheeks. **
To sum – I am a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast. So it was to my delight this weekend the community reading program run by my public library – Linn Area Reads – announced that this year’s book is Austen’s first novel. I look forward to the March book discussions and have already signed up for a tea that is scheduled.
My main concern? One of the events is a film showing – but they have not specified which adaptation will be shown. Is it the ultimate Pride and Prejudice with Firth and Ehle, and not the disappointing portrayal of Lizzie that I have been able to bring myself to watch in its entirety : the Keira Knightly edition.
A somewhat irreverent metaphor was made to me once by a friend. She was leaving the movie theater after watching the Knightly rendition and I asked her how it was. “You know how the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice is like The Bible?” she asked? “Yes,” I responded. “Well, this one was like the Book of Mormon.”
Pride and Prejudice has taken an almost sacred place in our household. My mom, my sister, and I all watched it several times a year together – bonding over our disdain and then adoration of Darcy, our hatred of Wickham, and our agony over the entire Bennett Family’s decisions. We quote lines back and forth to each other and although the three of us live in different states now, it continues to be a cornerstone of our relationships.
So today I thank Austen for creating strong female characters, for her wit and her wisdom, and for putting it into words that have crossed two centuries and found their way to our hearts in the 21st century.
Update: The library has confirmed that the film event will be showing the newer version. I might consider attending the event however because it is being held at the fabulous theater downtown that recently re-opened after being flooded 4 years ago. We’ll see.