I *LOVE* Pride and Prejudice. I love most Jane Austen books (not Sense & Sensibility- I just… can’t). In close second is Persuasion. The reason P&P comes first is because it was my first. It was the first piece of adult literature I chose to read. Before this I had been forced by teachers to read literature. On my own, I would choose young adult books or horror. It was a big deal to chose literature.
Growing up in Miami meant my reading choices in school was influenced by the latino communities surrounding me: Cuban, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Columbian, and others. We read books by refugees mixed with classics. Austen was not on the list until my senior year. My history classes rarely got as far as the Regency era in the UK (or anywhere in Europe). When we did it focused on war. I knew little to nothing about the world I was reading. I knew women often did not get to chose their husbands for love because of circumstances or family pressure. I understood the concept of class and station. I knew a woman rarely got an inheritance of her own.
I wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet as soon as I started reading about her. I too saw Mr. Darcy’s flaws. I too didn’t see how his feelings changed towards her. I too felt it was better to be alone than to settle with love. I also knew the frustrations with Mr. Darcy were a mix of perceived rejection, personal pride, and attraction. Deep down I knew Mr. Darcy was misunderstood. When I read his willingness to acknowledge his faults and to change himself, I knew I was in love. It wasn’t that he was changing to be worthy of Elizabeth. It was that he saw the validity of her criticism and knew he had to change for his own sake. He has no expectation that she would do the same.
My first copy was a library book, but when my senior year came around I got my first personal copy of the book. It was an inexpensive paperback copy, but I still have it- highlights, notes and all. You can see above, I now have a whole shelf devoted to the world of Pride and Prejudice. I have my slightly nicer Barnes and Nobles hard back edition. That was the one I read for many years when I needed to re-read it. Typically after breaking up with someone. I have many copies now. My favorite is the pink one with a word cloud on the cover. I have a brand new (to me) copy that I got at a local used bookstore. I have a total of 5 copies and I am probably going to buy more when I find lovely copies.
The other books on the shelf are inspired by the original. I have two of the three zombie books. They were fun adaptations. I have a children’s picture counting book with illustrations I love. Side note, friends have seen my Mr. Darcy tote bag by the same artist. I also have a similar book by the same artist for Jane Eyre (Rochester is not the man of my dreams). There is the book connected to the Lizzy Bennet Diaries, a wonderfully done vlog series with one of the hottest Mr. Darcy ever. No, Colin Firth is not my favorite Mr. Darcy. I love him, but I have my own idea of what he should look like. Nobody has hit the nail on the head for me.
My favorite is the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. Its the entire story from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. The middle book is primarily original material since Mr. Darcy wasn’t around for a huge chunk of time. While I think Austen did a wonderful job showing his POV without focusing on him, I enjoyed seeing his evolution through his own eyes.
I know there are many people who won’t read Pride and Prejudice on principal. I would encourage you to reconsider. Elizabeth Bennet is a woman ahead of her time. She is smart, sarcastic, and yet also open and friendly. There is a reason people keep coming back to Austen and Pride & Prejudice. There is a reason women love Mr. Darcy. If you haven’t read it before or haven’t read it since high school, I encourage you to give it another chance.
Maybe someday I will tell you why Captain Wentworth is a better man than Mr. Darcy…