Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice": Happily Ever After

In today's Age and Sydney Morning Herald, I review Susannah Fullerton's Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

In 'An encyclopaedia of Janeite love', I discuss the adoration of Jane Austen novels, and the price paid for this: love that often (maddeningly) departs from our own sense and sensibility. A sample:
Despite Fullerton's rightful enthusiasm, there is a hint of regret in Happily Ever After. Fullerton welcomes interest in Austen's novels and life. But with popularity comes faddishness, sentimentality and superficiality: Colin Firth's Darcy on souvenir coffee cups, but not Austen's Darcy, that sterling alloy of author's phrase and reader's imaginative response. Fullerton notes the tasteful simplicity of Austen memorabilia before the 1995 BBC series; the ''infinite'' superiority of Austen to those who pay homage to her; the sacrifices made as Pride and Prejudice becomes cinematic.
This is the Janeite's familiar ambivalence: not everyone will enjoy Pride and Prejudice with the same taste for irony, history and virtue. Shared pleasures can be pleasures compromised. 
Happily, Austen's works are also the remedy for this malaise: they increase our intimacy with human character and its curious variations. If Pride and Prejudice is the bible of a cult, we devoted Janeites are not fundamentalists: there are many ways to adore this novel. Happily Ever After is an encyclopaedia of this love - and an expression of it.
(Photo: BBC)

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