From The Telegraph:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Thus begins Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of the most famous opening lines of any novel ever written. It is a story that has touched hearts for exactly 200 years: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy.
…And when Austen wasn’t slicing up the men, she was defining women into tribes (long before the Spice Girls): the pretty, the funny, the clever, the bookish, the bold. Of course, I knew that in real life I was an Elizabeth – not the handsomest, not the fastest, but the “sparkiest” of girls. My true love would value me for my mind first and foremost, and that – like Elizabeth – is what I would want.
Some warn that Pride and Prejudice sets modern girls up to fail. At night, we dream of an honourable man like Darcy. By day, we learn that many modern men favour the pulchritudinous countenance of a Miss Jane Bennet, the rather relaxed morals sported by Lydia-a-likes, and especially the juicy inheritance behind an Anne de Bourgh. Against those temptations, which Elizabeth among us fancies our chance? Coraggio, whispers the author, be true to yourself. Thirty-five years later, living just eight miles from Chawton, Austen’s home, now a museum devoted to her, I find my love for the book endures (although I have long since found my Darcy). So what keeps me – and so many others – wedded to this novel? Especially when we could just whack on the Colin Firth box set instead? Certainly, I enjoy a hit of Georgian grace and fantasy: a dip into that world where problems could be solved by a new gown, an invitation to a ball, or some scrumptious item of gossip. And I appreciate more knowingly Austen’s descriptions of how money rules society. But it is Austen’s knack of describing the human heart that still sets my literary pulse racing, and makes me long for a quiet corner in which to curl up with the book. And now I read it with my daughter in mind; will she, too, find Pride and Prejudice, the gold standard of love stories, a primer for romantic life?