sunday salon || Choosing This Darcy

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.

I’ve tried to examine what it is exactly that draws me to P&P:

  • 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! :]

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15 comments

  1. I think it’s such a satisfying read. For me, it’s more about Elizabeth’s character than the Darcy romance – but it’s all good!
    Try reading it in a park in London :)

    1. Yes, we read books for so many different reasons, no? Even within the story. Still. For some reason, I haven’t completely written off P&P. Perhaps there hasn’t been the right time and mood? [I’ll keep London in mind, though, haha.]

  2. Sasha I love this brave post. There are a couple of books that I’ve felt pressured into liking and failed (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods comes to mind).

    I read P&P last year and did enjoy it, although it was slow and it took me almost a month off and on. I would only read twenty or so pages at a time. I agree the romance is very subtle and I guess I accepted that because I felt it was portraying early 18th century life. Maybe I was wrong?

    Now, I haven’t ever watched P&P. There are so many versions to choose from, I’m somewhat afraid that I’ll choose “the wrong one” and it’ll be ruined!

    Cheers!

    1. I love how your Sunday Salon post mentions P&P too! :] Yes, the book certainly reflects the time, and I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that said time isn’t for me. For some reason, I’d rather read historical fiction, than actual fiction written in the days of yore.

      And this version is the only P&P movie I’ve ever watched, and goodness but I enjoyed it. Mr. Darcy was swoon-able here, haha.

  3. As far as movie adaptations go, I will always be a fan of the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice, but as far as reading Jane Austen’s actual novels, I must confess that I love her smartass satirical side more than her love stories. Call me a cynic. (And on Valentine’s Day, for shame!)

    But whatever, you needn’t read P&P if you don’t want to!

    1. Hi, Emily. I suppose you liking her satirical side just goes to show we go to a certain author for different things. Good to know you weren’t disappointed in what you were looking for with her. :]

      And since this is the first movie adaptation I’ve seen, I don’t have much to compare it to–but I have heard wonderful things about Colin Firth, haha.

    2. Yeah, no one does subtle sarcasm like Austen! Once you notice it, you realize it’s everywhere, and it makes the whole reading a lot less stuffy.

      1. This is why I’ll be reading her less-romance-centric novels. Probably Mansfield Park–I mean, I haven’t completely given up on Austen, just on Pride and Prejudice. :)

  4. Pride and Prejudice was the first Austen book I read. I did not like it and I said I hated her. Then I read Sense and Sensibility and loved it. Now I’m giving P&P a second chance. It’s not for everyone though, that is for certain. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Ash. And good luck with your re-experience of Austen. I’ll be hunting for some other author to make me happy, haha.

  5. Read P&P last year for a book discussion– my first Austen too — and I was thoroughly bored.

    I’m giving Austen another chance too, though, I think Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are more my speed.

    1. Haha, yes, I was bored by Austen. I’m looking forward to reading Mansfield Park, though–I’ll be able to displace Austen’s rep as a romance-writer and just focus on her satire-writing, methinks. :] Someday!

  6. […] at Savidge Reads and Sasha at Sasha & The Silverfish both mentioned that they haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, a love story favourite. I adore […]

  7. […] stuck with me for some time now, you’d know that I am sadly lacking in Austen-ate literature. I even swore off Pride and Prejudice, at least for the near future. I’ve never been comfortable with the setting, […]

  8. […] don’t quite get along, Jane Austen and I. I’ve all but renounced her much-loved Pride and Prejudice, and not because I enjoy being contrary [though I occasionally […]

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