In my (I’ll grant you, fairly limited) experience, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of those books that people say they would like to read, but have never got round to reading.
To be fair, with such an excellent adaptation as the BBC 1995 production, you could be forgiven for not reading it and watching instead, but if not, you’d really be missing out.
My introduction to this book was through that six-hour epic TV series, with Darcy and Lizzie played by Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and with a sparkling script by Andrew Davies.
I am uttery unashamed in thinking that there really was no need for another film version after this one – I grant you it isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn close!
So after watching that, I was drawn to the source material thinking that it would be another clunky classic that I would have to struggle through – but no! Jane Austen’s writing, for all its 18th Century vocabulary, is just as brilliant as anything written today.
Her humour is wry and unflinching, and she never spares an opinion about those of her sex who make themselves ridiculous – Lady Catherine De Bourgh, for example – making this and others of her novels (so far I’ve made my way through Emma and Sense & Sensibility) so accessible to today’s young women.
So great is my love of Pride & Prejudice, that I find myself reading lots of sequels and retellings, just to stay immersed in that world for a little longer. Some of the others I have read are listed below if you would like to check them out. Most of the ones I have read have been excellent, but I have picked up some real duds too (which I have left off my list…)
Longbourn by Jo Baker – Told from the perspective of the servants at Longbourn, this novel stands in its own right, but also gives interesting ‘extras’ about the main characters of Pride & Prejudice. If you read this, you’ll never look at Mr Bennet the same way again.
Georgiana Darcy by Alice Isakova – I’ve read this most recently and it takes the Pride & Prejudice world outwards from Hertfordshire to Bath and more into Kent. Anne De Bourgh is a much more fleshed-out character here too.
What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean – Again, fleshing out some of the more sidelined characters from the original book, Kitty is at a loss without Lydia by her side, but finds more in common with Miss Darcy – can she be trusted as a sensible young woman?
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – The ultimate Pride & Prejudice retelling I think! Everyone’s heard of Bridget and her tangles in love with Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy. It’s a classic in its own right, but can’t be left off of this list!
There are loads more waiting from me, including (but not limited to) Lydia, Mr Darcy’s Diary, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Longbourn Letters, The Diary of Mary Bennet and many more – can you recommend any others?