Everything has been said about this most revered novel. From its famous beginning about the "truth, universally acknowledged, that a single an in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" to its happy ending. So, for my (fourth? fifth?) rereading of P&P, I didn’t wish to add another serious approach to this novel. I will spare myself the tedium of a summary (sorry students, but here again, there are many P&P summaries on the web), and I will not got through all the impediments and hesitations that prevents Darcy to overcome his pride and Elizabeth to beat her prejudices ("or is it the other way around?", as Tom Hanks judiciously asks Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail?). Because, as we all know, Elizabeth has her share of pride, and Darcy has prejudices of his own…

Many criticism articles have been written by scholars. (Scholarly) best-selling authors have also shared their insight into P&P: thus, Carol Shields has underlined the importance of "the politics of the glance" in Jane Austen’s novels, glance as a mean of communication between sexes, because when "a woman’s tongue is obliged to be still, her eye becomes her effective agent". But is this true remark really applicable to Elizabeth whose tongue is rarely stilled? Elizabeth is indeed something of a rebel, a truly modern woman according to Victorian standards. Azar Nafisi, in Reading Lolita in Tehran, noted the parallel between the dances Darcy and Elizabeth perform at the different balls they attend, and the general structure of the novel: "the whole structure of the novel is like a dance", she writes, "which is both a public and a private act." And later: "Throughout the novel, Elizabeth and Darcy constantly move towards and away from each other." A truly interesting approach… Less scholarly and more or less best-selling authors had also something to add to the P&P edifice: I am thinking about the numerous sequels (of which I have not yet ventured to read one, because I am too afraid to find out what could happen to happily ever after: what if Darcy return to his old brooding self? and what if lady Catherine de Bourgh constantly invades Elizabeth’s privacy at Pemberley?  Or if Wickham leaves Lydia and throws shame (again!) on the family? People have gone into therapy for smaller worries…). Others again have revisited and reinterpreted the masterpiece with a various level of success ( Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice or Bridget Jones’s Diary come to mind). By the way, the best thing that could happen to Bridget Jones’s Diary (that I could not finish, for cause of bad writing), is to have been turned into a movie with Colin Firth as Darcy: that was a real stroke of genius!

So, as you might have understood by now, what was inspired my rereading of P&P in terms of a review are a few Very Superficial Comments (VSC), instead of a thorough, serious review. My first VSC is that Darcy struck me as a good model for the TV character Dr. House, mostly in his dealings with his best friend Bingley (that I found strangely similar to the House/Wilson relationship). Is the influence conscious or not? I wouldn’t venture to say. Elizabeth’s father, with his biting irony, is another model for the infamous doctor. His " That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough" to stop his daughter Mary from butchering more music airs is my favorite piece of Mr Bennet’s sarcasm… My second VSC is the amazing realization that the wet-shirt scene (Darcy unexpectedly meeting Elizabeth in Pemberley after bathing in the lake) only belongs to the BBC adaptation, and is not to to be found in the novel. Producers are geniuses: sometimes it is good to have a little initiative… Last but not least VSC: after several readings of the novel, there is still a question gnawing at me and robbing me of my sleep at night: "Does Elizabeth really fall in love with Pemberley or with Darcy?". Granted, when visiting the mansion, Elizabeth had already sorted things out about Wickham and Darcy, she had understood that "one has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it". But visiting Pemberley remains the first time she imagines herself as Darcy’s wife: "at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley must be something". And when answering surprised Jane about how long she has loved Darcy, she replies playfully (or not?): "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began.  But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley". Is Elizabeth a material girl? For she certainly lives in a material world, like all Austen’s heroines. After all, Persuasion‘s Anne Elliot refused Wentworth because his future was uncertain, financially speaking. Granted, she was persuaded by a family friend, but she still refused him for this reason. And when she a marries him eight years later, the man is wealthy! Would she have married him if he had still been struggling to make a living? Jane Austen is voluntarily ambiguous about such subjects as marrying for money and marrying for love… But if she beats around the bush with such issues more than in later novels it is because, as Carol Shields mentions in Austen’s biography: "Pride and Prejudice is closer to being a romance than any of her other novels". Romance? chick lit? Pride and Prejudice is all that. But still, as the first chick lit writer, Austen demands great respect and admiration. Because she was the first, because when she wrote Pride and Prejudice, the novel itself was at its infancy. And think about this: if Oscar Wilde is celebrated for his wit to this day, he lived later that Austen, and evolved in fancy London circles. Austen almost never leaved her Hampshire countryside, except for her literary unproductive years in Bath. But she was, like Elizabeth, a "studier of characters", and her own of repartee has nothing to envy to Wilde’s…

To end this review with a positive note (for myself), I realized that, in Elizabeth’s position, I wouldn’t be completely disgraced in Darcy’s view, for though I don’t have a "thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages", I improve "my mind by extensive reading". It is comforting to know that I wouldn’t deserve Darcy’s absolute scorn!

Rating: 5/5