Reading "Pride and Prejudice" in my Thirties

I received Pride and Prejudice as an audiobook from my local library, and I’m very glad. Even if I had managed to have no difficulty getting into it this time around, I only have a limited time for engaging with reading from printed books and this allowed me to go through a much longer work in a reasonable amount of time. I spend a lot of time on the road in this phase of my life, so audiobooks are a good option for me. If I had been reading the classic on paper I would have had to devote several months to reading it.

I have been avoiding Pride and Prejudice for far too long. It was difficult to get into. The writing is very involved, and the book starts an a very slow roll. Much of the action in the book is indirectly implied. There are layers of conversational intrigue that take a lot of time to build up. It took a while to tune my senses to pay attention to the right parts of the story to track the action. I think listening to audio helped me work through to the point where all of that build up started to pay off.

At the end of the day, Pride and Prejudice is essentially a “Victorian decorum thriller.” I really enjoyed Austen’s wry sense of humor. Because I had never been successful at truly getting into the book before now, I was caught off-guard by this playfulness from Austen. It did get literally laugh-out-loud funny. I found myself chuckling several times! It was definitely unexpected given my prior experience with the novel.

One of the primary points the novel makes is the difference between being good and being friendly. This is definitely a useful lesson to remember. We often mistake friendliness and politeness with goodness. As I have aged I have become increasingly wary of charisma and what it can hide. The novel was a good reminder of that lesson.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the Pride and Prejudice was the window it gave into Victorian life. It portrays a much more pragmatic perspective on life and marriage than is generally idealized today. Class and the trappings of class are incredibly important. One of the things that I noticed about the novel is how the servant class is erased almost entirely from the work. I know that there were a number of people working all around the main characters, but in Austen’s work they were less than faceless – they were invisible, they often were not even mentioned in passing.

On a more practical note, I was surprised at Wickham’s ability to desert the Army without any real reproach. After my own years of military service, this blew me out of the water. At first I thought that this was an oversight, but after looking up some of the history of military service in this era I learned that it was fairly common for officers to enter and leave the service with some degree of fluidity. This happened in no small part because a relatively large roll of officers was needed in order to support a full command structure during a time of war. When a need emerged to conscript a large number of soldiers into service, there would be no time to identify and train up a large contingent of senior leadership in addition. To accommodate this need the rolls contained a large number of officers – many more than regular daily duties required – and so these officers often spent time both in and out of service, serving and advancing in both civilian pursuits and a military career as it suited them.

In summary, I enjoyed the book quite immensely on my first time through it successfully. It comes highly recommended, though an audio version may be the best for readers like myself, especially on a first reading.

In my Twenties

In my twenties my re-reading focused on books that I had read in High School. Since I had tried to read Pride and Prejudice recreationally, but had never finished it or been required to read it, Austen’s classic didn’t pass through my hands in my Twenties.

In my Teens

I tried to read Pride and Prejudice in my teen years, while I was in High School, but I found it slow and uninteresting. I never really got into the book, and I soon put it down. It wasn’t required reading in any of my High School classes. I had only tried to read it because I had heard so much about it. My own experiences with it at this young age were not sufficiently exciting to draw me in for recreational reading when it wasn’t required of me, so I ended up giving up on it. It wasn’t until years later when I picked it up again.