It was on the heels of watching Pride & Prejudice (2005) [starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen] that I decided that I would never read Jane Austen’s much-loved novel—at least, not in the foreseeable future. I’ve realized that, after a decade of dipping into the book and testing out the waters, I really do not want to read the novel. God help me, but I really don’t.
I do not take this decision lightly, mind you. I have been reading Pride and Prejudice “on-and-off” since I was ten. [And then there’s the fact that everyone must feel like they’ve read this already. Discussions are numerous, as well as productions and movie versions and adaptations.] Yes, I have tried to read the book “normally,” but I’ve only ever made it until that part where Lizzy goes to Netherfield to attend to a sick Jane—and then I threw my hands up and gave up. Over the years, I have skimmed the book looking for “the good parts,” mostly picking out scenes involving Lizzy and Darcy, looking for that hook that’ll tell me I was in the right place, this was the book for me. But—no hook. None at all.
And then came this movie. It’s my first P&P movie, and goodness but I enjoyed it. I fluttered my hands, I swooned. Matthew MacFadyen completely owns whatever Mr. Darcy image there is in my head, and I don’t mind.
The movie has spoiled all possible near-future enjoyment from reading the book. Really reading the book. It’s the proverbial final nail on the coffin. And although it is true that I am one of those people who roll their eyes at those who say, “I’d rather watch the movie version” when faced with the actual book—I shall have to cash in whatever coupon it is that allows me to settle with the movie.
Note that while the movie was on, I had my book open. It was a dorky thing to do, yes. I was looking up parallel scenes, and the movie really is just more romantic—and I know it’s meant to be more romantic. And that’s fine by me. I mean, I like words—I like dialogue. “I love, I love, I love you,” said movie Darcy.
Novel Darcy and Novel Lizzy took a walk and got engaged. It felt like a shrug.
- There’s the pressure, of course: what self-respecting lover of books would pass up Austen? Peer pressure, pure and simple.
- And then, well, there’s the reason near and dear to my heart: I’ve always wanted to read P&P to see what all the fuss with Mr. Darcy was about. Taking this further, I want a firsthand experience of Darcy, just so I could add weight to my Rochester Above All campaign. Because I have been in love with Mr. Rochester since I was nine. (And I will stop with the Rochester thing here, because I’ll likely never stop.)
- I want a romance. Although I am aware that P&P is not just a romance, that’s what I want it to be. And having skimmed through the book countless of times over the last ten years—I have realized that it just isn’t the romance for me. Oh, I don’t fault the characters. It’s the storytelling I’ve been having a problem with.
The storytelling. I like to think that I’m an intelligent person (haha), and I’ve always tried to appreciate the language of any piece of literature. And although I find Austen’s narrative digestible and enjoyable, given how much I want to be a romance—well, like I said, she just doesn’t write a romance the way I want it to be written.
Which is a selfish thing to say about any kind of literature. But I pride myself on occasionally having a black heart.
I know I’m making a muck out of this explanation. When, really, what I want to say right now is that Movie Darcy made me swoon. Novel Darcy had me squinting into the page for some vestige of giddiness to bloom in me. And since it’s Darcy that I want out of this whole experience—?
I’ve chosen a Darcy. An uber-idealized version of the man you all know and love, but, well, this Darcy’s for me. I’ll be happy with that for, say, a decade? Nice.
PS – Happy Valentine’s Day! :]