A review copy of Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece by Susannah Fullerton (Jane Austen Society of Australia president) turned up at my local post office in early December, having been sent from the PR Department of Quayside Publishing Group. It is an absolute delight, and I’ve been dying to post about it.
From cover to cover, every Pride and Prejudice fan will be enthralled. Written in a way that is not only educated and enthusiastic, but also entertaining, it’s a masterpiece in itself. With colour illustrations throughout (35 in colour, 35 in black and white), it’s one that you will loathe to give away as a gift, wanting to keep it to yourself. And, with Ms Fullerton in Australia (and Sydney no less!), I’m twice as pleased to be able to review this book.
The 240-page hardback is now available for purchase (as of January 2), for (US)$25.99, ISBN:0760344361 from Voyageur Press.
It’s rare that you come across a book, completely dedicated to Pride and Prejudice, that truly delves into it in a way that is both academic and entertaining. This is that book. It was gratifying to see a number of Jane Austen blogs mentioned, as well as news and information that I’ve covered over the years (e.g. the Darcin Pheromone).
My favourite chapters: ‘Pictures of Perfection’: Illustrating and Covering Pride and Prejudice, and ‘A Very Superior Work’: Reactions to Pride and Prejudice, are sparkling explanations that cut to the core of what we enjoy most about the book. For anyone who has ever been asked just why they like reading about Darcy and Lizzy so much, this is your justification right here – you’re not alone.
The cover of the hardback, with peacocks emblazoned across it, is reminiscent itself of the 1894 Peacock Edition of Pride and Prejudice, and sets the scene for a book that is both nostalgic and forward-thinking. Where many books focus only on one country’s representation, Ms Fullerton looks at Pride and Prejudice across the globe, in every medium and from a number of angles – every fan has something to learn.
While well-seasoned Janeites may find the roundup of the characters in one of the chapters a little tedious, if you read closely you’ll find that some of the perspectives may differ from your own thoughts. For instance, Mrs Bennet as a domestic goddess and Mr Collins’ as one of the most memorable characters. Ms Fullerton has certainly put her own stamp onto this book.
Similarly, while many fans will be keenly aware of the different thoughts around the initial First Impressions manuscript, some interesting ideas are brought up – was it epistolary (as was the initial manuscript of Sense and Sensibility)? There’s even a whole chapter just deconstructing the “It is a truth universally acknowledged” line.
Another particularly interesting section of the book, for me at any rate, is about the different translations of the book (and where, so often, they end up butchering Jane Austen’s original meaning). I wish I was multilingual now so that I could read these ‘adaptations’ too!
I imagine that most Pride and Prejudice fans will be picking up this book. If you don’t, then you’ll be missing out.
Check back on The Bennet Sisters tomorrow for a Q&A with Susannah Fullerton about this book.