20. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)

Well she had to be in here, and I’m blowed if I’m going to choose one of the lesser novels to try and appear more discerning. Pride and Prejudice is the Jane Austen novel, and there are good reasons why it’s been adapted and hyped and rewritten to such a degree. For one thing, it’s the nearest thing there is to Perfect English Prose, not a jot or tittle out of place. It has a plot so well structured and polished that sometimes it hardly seems to be there at all. Characters and dialogue are sharp and funny, with a good seasoning of monsters (Mrs Bennet, Lady Catherine and my favourite, Mr Collins). But above all, it’s the most successful romantic novel ever written. It sets up all sorts of longings in characters and readers alike, then brings them quite brilliantly to fruition. It’s easy to sneer at ‘wish fulfilment’, but I think that’s what fiction is all about, and it’s one of the reasons I find so many modern novels unsatisfying. I don’t need to be told that life is an inconclusive mess; I want more than that. Each time I re-read P&P I’m amazed at its power to entertain and move, and I don’t think I could ever really like anyone who disagrees with me.

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1 Comment

Filed under My top 100 novels

One response to “20. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)

  1. David Benedict

    The plotting is truly astonishing. The timing of it is so unexpected. People who profess to hate Jane Austen clearly only skim the surface: there’s such power beneath the poise.

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