I don’t know that a typical review of such a classic is called for. If there is anyone who isn’t yet acquainted with Jane Austen’s masterpiece, I can’t imagine any words of mine will end such a deplorable state of affairs.
Yes, the novel’s a fascinating look at social class in 19th-Century England. It’s ostensibly about property, inheritance, power dynamics among classes, courtship, and manners. But that’s not why I read it. I read it because it’s wickedly funny and the characterization of the Bennets and all those who surround them are delicious.
The distant but sarcastic observations of Mr. Bennet, the ridiculous and obtuse prattle of Mrs. Bennet, the kindness of Jane, the sass of Elizabeth, and the absurdity of the youngest daughters, all combine to paint a delightful portrait of the society. Austen punctures fools readily, but also makes us long for justice for the characters who are objects of pity and affection. It’s impossible to read this with any sense of heart and not care what happens to these people. And that response is not lessened upon rereading.
I once had a professor challenge our class to find a serious literary novel that ended happily. I put Pride and Prejudice forth in response. (To be fair, I think he restricted his challenge to American literature of the 20th Century, which may prove to be an unassailable position.) But this novel simple makes me happy.
To my chagrin, I’ve never paid much attention to Austen’s other novels. I plan to rectify that soon and have ordered copies of them all. What a wonderful reading experience this has been.