Firstly, apologies for the long absence of posts (I’ve been on holidays!). However, I’m back to blog again, and with a new question sent to me from a reader.
This isn’t a first for this question, and is definitely something I have thought about before as have many others. I was about fourteen when I read the book, I understood it all and fell completely in love with it. This seems, to me, to be the average appropriate age for a first reading. But I have found that my understanding has changed with time, as has my appreciation of the language, characters and storyline. When you’re in your younger teenage years, I feel as though you like it as a chick-lit type book, romantic slush that is a bit more sophisticated. But now, as I leave my teens, I see it more as a mirror I can hold up to different types of people, and as a criticism of certain types of relationships- albeit with a happy ending.
It is a classic, and the language can be difficult for those under 12, I would imagine, but I think that anyone with a passion for reading over this age should find it fine. However, on some forums people have told a fifteen-year-old that “It’s too advanced for you.” whereas others said “It is not difficult at all. I read it when I was 12.” So it seems that the jury is still, relatively, out on the topic and it has to be thought about in terms of a persons own strength as a reader.
One answer on Yahoo answers was particularly nice: “When one finds this book compelling, that’s the right age to read it. For some it is 12, for others 37.” and I think this sums up the whole ‘guide’ to reading it. It’s for different people. I’ve heard that when people came back to Pride and Prejudice at different ages, they found different things and were drawn in by it in different ways. So, yes, it does depend on the person (you can’t really say “Is Pride and Prejudice good reading material for a ten year old?” and expect a universal reply) but I think that it should certainly be read before the age of 21, and then many times after that! Afterall, as long as the language can be coped with, the plot is fantastic for everyone.
Of course, it’s likely to differ for boys. I can’t imagine my 18 year old brother reading it at any time soon, but I hope that when he reaches his mid-thirties and grows out of the PS3, he might give it a try. Or at least Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Maybe.
And for more compelling evidence that even us teenagers love the book, I found this article from BBC News showing that Pride and Prejudice ranked number 1 as a book the British nation can’t live without, and was voted second by under-18s. I also wrote about this “Pride and Prejudice Phenomenon” over at Upstart online magazine- discussing what makes the book compelling for all generations, and the way it still fits into current society today (also features comments from JASA- Jane Austen Society of Australia volunteer Helen Malcher!).
So what do you think? What age is optimum for reading the book? Does its emphasis change as you get older?