Friday, 2 August 2013

Summer Reading Challenge: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Plus a fair amount of LBD!)

*squeels over the loveliness of this edition*

Many years ago, I tried to read Pride and Prejudice. And I really did try. I think I got about half way through before I decided that I just wasn't interested. It was a borrowed copy anyway, and I had had it for ages, so I just decided to return it to the owner and give up on Austen altogether. With hindsight, I was too young and just did not get the appeal. So I took the view that Austen was boring and not for me.

Then I discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

For those who don't know what this is, it is an adaptation set in modern day America where Lizzie Bennett just started making video diaries for a class project. And it is brilliant. As soon as I started it I became absolutely hooked. I waited eagerly every week for the new episode, and found myself thinking it over in my head. I went from someone who thought they hated Jane Austen, to someone who was completely, 100% emotionally invested in the outcome of these character's lives. So I made a resolution; I will read Pride and Prejudice. So I did!

I ended up reading most of this in a less than ideal setting. To set the scene properly, after being back home for three days after France, I was heading to Swindon to see my friend Emma for her birthday. Now normally, this journey would be a maximum of 45 minutes. Stellar planning on Emma's side meant that I was arriving just at the time she was dropping her dad off at the station, which would have resulted in a beautifully choreographed exchange moment. What could go wrong? Apparently a fair bit. Half an hour into my journey and the train is about ten minutes from Swindon station when it stops. Cue spending a lovely amount of time just chilling out on the train while the poor train manager keeps apologising on the speakers for the delay but he has no idea what has happened.Turns out a fire on the side of the track had taken out all the signalling abilities around Swindon. Oh joys! After a while of me standing around (Not only did I not have a chair, I was right by the toilets. Woohoo! *Fake excitement*) the train then set off back to the station we had originally got on it. Then I hopped on a coach that went via another station before arriving at Swindon three hours after I was supposed to arrive. Now, this sounds like a bit of a rant and I probably seem like I'm really annoyed about it. As it turns out, I actually was not particularly bothered! Because while all of this drama was happening, I was quite happily immersed in this book. It was great! With all my travelling totalled up I actually had a good 5 or 6 hours of reading and I was loving it!

Now that I have properly set the scene I will actually get on with talking about the book. I really enjoyed it! Due to enjoying the Lizzie Bennet Diaries so much I have ended up watching quite a few adaptations of this book, so reading it was like settling down with old friends. Nothing that happened was a surprise because I knew the format like the back of my hand. What was so enjoyable was reading it in its full and complete glory. Because all of the adaptations I had experienced were primarily visual. The bonus of this is that you get to enjoy seeing the events, examine body language, notice particular expressions etc. But reading the book gives that depth that lacks from visual representation. You get glimpses into the thoughts of the characters and things that films just don't show. This probably seems like a really basic observation (yes Sophie, books show you thoughts, films show you actions. VERY WELL OBSERVED) but I just found it delightful. One particular moment that comes to mind is from quite early on when Darcy first notices Elizabeth's eyes. I like how he makes a mental caution to himself to not let himself get carried away or something like that. It was like when a friend tells you something about themselves that you never knew, and it adds a layer to how you perceive them and reveals an aspect that you hadn't fully glimpsed before. It still fits with what you know of their character, but it's a normally hidden glimpse into how their mind works. 

Now I can't lie, my reading of this was very influenced by my love of LBD. There are many positive and negative aspects to the way LBD was adapted (and there are many people on the internet who can sum these up much better than I!) but one thing I loved was how they fleshed out the characters. In the book, Lydia is very annoying. She is just intensely irritating in her lack of awareness of others. But in LBD, she is one of my favourite characters. She retains many of the traits from the books, she is a bit 'boy-crazy', excitable, and unapologetic about her behaviour. But she is also a sweet sister with many more likeable traits than the book. She shows flashes of insecurity as her side channel develops and when everything with Wickham happens, I found my heart breaking for her. (It also helps that Mary-Kate is an amazing actress and really brings the character to life) Additionally, characters such as Caroline become more than simple, petty villains. In the book, Caroline is essentially just a snobby, rude woman who isn't that complex. The Caroline of LBD is more actively manipulative (which I personally loved), but also has more justification for being so. She genuinely cares for her brother and, as shown through twitter, is actually a friend to Gigi. There were lots of small changes I liked, such as Kitty being an actual Kitten. To close my small LBD sidetrack I will just say that my favourite thing is that it is fundamentally focused on the sisters and friendships. Yes, the Lizzie/Darcy romance is a strong factor, and yes I did squeal aloud on more than one occasion  But it is episodes such as "Snickerdoodles" that are my absolute favourite. 

The whole time I was reading this I was just mentally comparing adaptations in my head. Sometimes I would find I had Keira Knightly was speaking, and at others I was comparing what was happening with how Lost In Austen decided to interpret it. Essentially, I had a great time reading this, made even better by all the fabulous adaptations that have followed it.

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