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August 30, 2010

Nerdy Monday: Book chat!

August got away from me, so I passed the weekend reading Pride And Prejudice, it felt like I was cramming for finals again. I will admit that I spent the first 85 pages or so bemoaning all you Jane Austen fans who voted so vociferously for this book over The Great Gatsby. Then I spent the next 100 pages or so remembering why I had never read a full Jane Austen book cover to cover until now. When forced to pick from a list of female writers from the 19th century, I always reached for Kate Chopin, Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson. But when I had a choice in school I always sided with the men in this era-- Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson.

I took a break midway through reading P&P and did a little research online about Jane Austen's life (hey, it's been a while since I was in school and I'm not one of those people who goes around pretending to know everything, nothing irritates me more than pedantic pedantics, I fully admit I have to wikipedia shit all day long) and once I brushed up on my Austen facts I was much more interested in finishing the book. She died when she was so young, just a few years older than I am now. And I kept thinking how she never got to see what an impact her books had on the world ... here we are almost 200 years after the book was first published we're still talking about it!

I'm not a book critic, I can only say if a book spoke to me or not. I'm also deeply aware of the hate mail and criticism which would happen if open season were declared on me for not loving your favorite book. So I will not say I hated it. I didn't hate it at all, actually. While it was not a lifetime favorite for me, I'm certainly glad I read it. My main irritation was that the characters don't do anything except sit in drawing rooms and talk -- perhaps I would have enjoyed the Zombies version better -- maybe you'll assume I'm not subtle and literary enough to get the social commentary. I do see it, I mean that's all the book is, social observation, but I guess my appetite for marriage chitchat isn't 400 pages long.

I have to say, this book did make me feel grateful I didn't grow up in turn-of-the-century England. I can't imagine spending your childhood waiting to be married and then spending your adult life waiting to marry off your kids while gossiping about marriage all day long. (During one long scene where everyone sits around in the drawing room, I wrote in my diary, "These are people who could have seriously benefited from a TV.") In the end, though, it was pleasing to close the book and feel a sense of accomplishment. I'm glad we all read this book because now I can say I've read it and cross that off my list.

What did you think? I'm especially interested in folks who also read this book for the first time like un-subtle, un-literary me. Did you like the characters? Did you like the style of writing? The tone? The setting? The ending? Did you wish for zombies, too?

Posted by laurie at August 30, 2010 9:06 AM