If you’re a regular reader of The Bennet Sisters, you’ll know that once a month I go to a Jane Austen Book Group with four other girls from all over Sydney (to a backdrop of my slightly younger brother calling me a ‘nerd’. Nice). We have met three times and covered two books (Sense and Sensibility and now Pride and Prejudice), attempting to read them in order of publication. On Friday, it was the Pride and Prejudice meet up- and so, armed with my Vintage Austen copy of P&P, I spent the entire month re-reading and re-analysing the book. It has been quite an experience. Also, luckily, this book meet just about coincided with Austenprose’s ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies- Reclaiming the Classic’ event (a re-reading of the original novel), which I have been following with a lot of interest (and has some excellent giveaways you should keep your eyes peeled for on the Austenprose site!).
We held the meet at Rouse Hill Town Centre (previously having met in both Burwood and Darling Harbour) in a Thai restaurant at 6.30pm (having booked the table under the name ‘Bennet’ as per my best friend, Pauline’s, request!) and juggled the trains et cetera to get the other girls there. Although technically not in theme (chowing down on Veggie Thai Green Curry while deciding whether Matthew Macfadyen does Mr Darcy justice is an interesting feeling) there’s a fantastic atmosphere at ‘Thai Splendid’ (which I highly recommend for cheap, tasty food) that was conducive to the discussion. And, WHAT a discussion it was! Some of us have read the book numerous times previously, whereas others are solely BBC production fanatics who have become de-P&P-virginised this month.
Topics spanned everything from different television versions, which character’s advice worked best (Zahra had written down some quotes from the book such as: “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance… it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”), if Elizabeth Bennet is really as awesome as we widely believe she is, if Mr. Bennet is a bad father or not, Jane Austen’s life and whether Mr. Collins is as much of a creep as we all suspect (The verdict? Yes, he is). The best bit of discussing the book is that you get to confess to all the stupid stuff you’ve done while reading it during the month (laughing loudly on the train, dedicating hours during which you should be sleeping to watching another four hours of Colin Firth, falling asleep while reading it, cramming in a few pages while on the toilet… etc). Another amusing observation was about the physical “look” of Darcy- if an actor doesn’t already “look” like him… can he properly portray Darcy? This is still up for debate, although we all agreed that a blonde Darcy wouldn’t quite cut it for us.
After finishing all of our food (we were hungry, ok!) we popped in at The Coffee Club to continue our discussion over chai latte and tea. Luckily it was a bit warmer (these Australian winters annoy even us Brits at points) inside and we were able to continue on jabbering non-stop. A discussion we had that specifically comes to mind is about Lost In Austen and where her boyfriend proposes to her (really crappily, drunk and burping). We came to the conclusion that someone must never propose to one of us within the same week of watching/thinking about the novel. Nothing can live up to Darcy’s proposal, *sigh*.
When dropping everyone back to the station we decided to hold our next meetup, Mansfield Park (imagine: a bunch of girls complaining in unison), at Vaucluse house (part of the Old House historic trust, and of great importance to Sydney’s heritage). I haven’t been there before and although it has been quite a stretch I am very excited! While it has splendid gardens, or so I’ve been told, it’s obviously not a patch on Pemberley- but I have found a video on youtube that has some images of the place in it (watch the video from 1.02 minutes onwards for Vaucluse house):
It looks terrific! The interior makes me gush. (Similarly good, for those Sydney-siders interested, is Old Government House in Parramatta- a fantastic place I visited a few months ago with terrific portraits, furniture and just an incredible experience! Also, getting to see the servants quarters and authentic furniture is fantastic). Vaucluse house was built in bits and pieces between 1805 and 1860, so it is *almost* in the era, and is in what is called a “mixture” of styles. It also has a nice cafe, where we can discuss and drink tea, and feel completely immersed!
If having your own Pride and Prejudice meet-up I definitely recommend making it very casual, but getting everyone to bring a copy of the book. We even got onto dissecting different cover-art during the course of the evening! And, of course, making sure you have a fabulous bunch of people is a must (I was very anxious before I met everyone in the current group that it was going to be a flop/awkward et cetera- luckily they are all amazing people!) as is becoming comfortable enough to embarass yourself by gushing over Mr. Darcy’s looks. On our list left “To-Do” is high-tea, maybe some sort of art/something class and things like that. If you have any ideas for good places to go/things to do for book discussions, let me know?
Also, in keeping with the hilarious picture I’ve added at the top (I really want that shirt, it’s so genius!), should there be rules for a bookclub? There aren’t really any with us (and, hey, I’ve broken the first two already!). Except, well, no boys, you have to read the book/at least watch an adaptation if out of time and you must come to every meet. Is there much point to having rules? 🙂