This is sort of a deviation on the second-chance books list, because it’s not a book I disliked or was bored with when I first read it. I came a little late to the Austen party, reading all her novels in a single stretch in my mid-twenties. While I enjoyed them quite a lot, I never became the kind of hardcore Austenophile who rereads the books over and over and can quote passages verbatim. I’ve enjoyed (and reviewed here) some spinoffs, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Death comes to Pemberley, but it wasn’t until I got totally swept up in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a fantastic modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice reimagined as a YouTube vlog, that I felt I really wanted to reread the original.
So far, it’s on track with all my second-chance rereads in that I enjoyed it more on the reread than the first time around (and that’s given that I did like it the first time around, in this case). Having thought so much about how the story translates (and what parts of it don’t translate) to a modern setting while watching Lizzie Bennet, I was reading it with a pretty analytical eye, but I still got caught up in the story and in the characterization, which I think is just so good. My daughter, who’s almost 13, has been reading it too and finding the language bogging her down quite a bit (it’s the first 19th century novel she’s attempted to read), but I find as I get older that the language in older novels is less of a barrier than it used to be. It certainly slows down the reading process, but I’m coming to think that’s not a bad thing, as it enables me to spend more time with the characters and appreciate little witticisms that might fly by in a more fast-paced novel. Pride and Prejudice is wickedly witty. And, like most novels of that era (but especially so because it’s written by a woman) it ought to be read regularly by modern young women who like to proclaim that they’re “not feminists.” While the tone is almost always lighthearted, underlying it is the chilling reality of how completely circumscribed women’s choices were in the nineteenth century, and how for middle and upper-class women, marriage was the only respectable career imaginable, and the social and economic considerations attached to marriage so constricting that the woman’s own happiness was often little more than an afterthought.