'Pride and Prejudice' was published in 1813 and describes how its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, copes with life among the landed gentry in the early nineteenth century. It is a delicate, wise and sometimes richly humorous novel about how to cope with polite society and its rules. Elizabeth is one of five sisters, the daughters of a moderately well-off country gentleman; his estate is entailed to the nearest male relative and the girls will have a very modest inheritance, so it is imperative that they marry well. To find a suitable husband, they must be accomplished, beautiful and well-mannered and the book deals with issues of manners, upbringing and educations, as well as morality.
This is such a well-known story and has been made into films and television series so many times that you'd think that reading it would be a yawn. On the contrary, it is subtle and charming and wise and thoroughly enjoyable, in my opinion Jane Austen's greatest novel. How much I'd have missed if I had simply watched this on tv! One really understands why Elizabeth and Jane's embarrassing relatives - their parents and siblings, were such a drawback to making a good marriage, as well as why their father's conduct was a reprehensible as their foolish mother's. What I loved was the realism - the explicit way in which women recognised that their only route to a secure and comfortable life was to marry the right man, and that actually falling in love was an optional extra. Elizabeth's plain friend, Charlotte, trades herself off to a foolish man whom she does not love in order to have a home and family and her painful predicament is completely understandable. Elizabeth is determined not to marry without love. Will she succeed? She learns many lessons in her journey to happiness, as does Darcy, and this is what gives the plot its movement forward. A lovely book!