Sunday 30 January 2011

Pride and Prejudice (well, sort of)

I came late to Pride and Prejudice. I think I was in my late 30s when I first read it. Older than most I suspect. Naturally I was aware of the myth and aura surrounding this book. Actually I don't think I was all that bowled over by my first reading. It took me a while to get into, but eventually I did get the felicity of her language, and enjoyed it well enough. I've reread it twice I believe since then, and like it more each time. I'm not usually one to reread so this is a rather new experience for me. The story is becoming more familiar and more comforting with each rereading.

My local library held a Jane Austen bookgroup for a while, inspired by the book and film of the same name, and I got to read all of her major works except for Sense and Sensibility ( a gap that I must rectify at some stage, hopefully in 2011 as it is the bicentenary of publication), and many of the minor works. I've watched most movie versions that are available (again except S&S) of her works, and enjoyed them, even up to modern remakings such as Clueless , which, dare I say it? I enjoy more than the original Emma! Like every woman of a certain age I sat there agog, captivated by the small screen as Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle brought Jane Austen's most famous tale to life in the mid 1990s.

I was then greatly interested in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies when it came out in 2009. Which is odd. I'm not into the zombie movie genre at all, but for some reason I loved the cover, even whilst being vaguely disturbed by it. I was compelled to buy the book the first time I saw it in a shop. No pondering, no reading back covers- just snatch and grab.

It seems the perfect mix of Austen and Zombie. Even now I can't help but think how wrong that sentence is. It's a completely ridiculous pairing. So why is it that it works? I don't know that I'll ever be able to explain why I like this book. Why I so  enjoyed the experience of reading this book. I didn't expect to. But I did. It is funny what pulls you up though. I can suspend disbelief and imagine that the Bennet girls have all been trained in the deadly arts in China, and that they revel in the beheading of the undead. But that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is equally famed for her deadly combat skills? Well, that just seems wrong! And certainly Seth Grahame-Smith has done a fabulous job with this homage to Austen's most famous work. It was to become a publishing sensation, and rightly so. I don't know that I'll read any of the other zombie works, but this one taste was certainly rewarding and fun.

My other recent P&P experience was watching the original 1940 movie version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.

Interesting to read that Aldous Huxley was the scriptwriter. What an interesting experience. Of course there has been widespread condemnation over the costumes, which are not right at all for the regency period, although it would be intriguing to see the colours of the frocks.

There are also major discrepancies from the plot of the book of course. There is what amounts to a car chase scene early on between Mrs Bennet and Mrs Lucas. Mustard plasters (sinapisms) whilst fascinating aren't true to Austen. A garden party that never existed. And gross liberties have been taken with the dialogue. Such as Darcy's remarkable comment that "Every Hottentot can dance."

It's funny but I don't remember Mr Bennet saying "They're all silly and ignorant like most girls." But, on checking he certainly does.

And the ending! What a shocker. It is a fun movie to watch though (even if I did fall asleep through most of it the first time, and have to watch it again- without wine- to see the movie through), and is one that easily counts as a Movie Made Before I was Born.


Anonymous said...

I'm not even going to deign to comment on the first review in the post. After all, you know you are right when you say how wrong the sentence combining Austen and Zombie.

However, that movie. It's my guilty pleasure. So wrong, but such fun Garson and Olivier are wonderful. I will never get out of me head Olivier's voice when he says to Elizabeth as he closes the door "The chapter is definitely closed". And Elizabeth's audible sigh response after he's gone. Oh, it all makes me go to jelly just thinking of it. The liberties taken with the script, particularly the romanticisation of Lady Catherine are outrageous but I still love the film ...

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, so many typos in that comment - please excuse my poor old addled brain.

Louise said...

I suspected that you may not be a P&P&Z fan Sue. It surprised me how much fun it actually was. As to the movie perhaps you have to have watched it multiple times.... But I didn't even think that Greer Garson looked much like a Lizzie!