Monday, February 27, 2012

Return to Pemberley

February's done up and gone (or almost)... and how have I been occupying myself away from my loyal followers? Do not fear, my little ones... I have been most gainfully employed.  At last, at last, gainfully employed.  Whimsicalities aside, I have finally made it all the way up my backlog.  To the one, the only, the one and only book that deserves all the fanfare you could possibly come up with... yes, you guessed it, L&Gs, ppppP aaaaan ppppP!!!! Shockingly enough, I have not read the book since I came back from seminary - which means 5 years last June, IIRC.  In that time of course, I have not been leaving my beloved idle.  Movies, sequels, prequels, take-offs, spins... I have spent a fair bit of time immersed in the world of Pride and Prejudice (embarrassingly enough, some might say).  But it was time to get back to basics.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to read the book, since I know it so well.  And indeed, it wasn't a fast read (it has been over a month since I posted, after all).  But I guess I don't know the book as well as I thought I did, since I had very little trouble absorbing the meaning of the words (and not just letting them wash over me, as I find I can do when I know something really well).  I mean, I definitely had to read passages twice at times... but it was all the more worthwhile.  It's amazing how much I can still pick up, on my upteenth reading (maybe it's even at 20? who knows...) Little nuances, like that when Elizabeth says "a deep and intricate character is more estimable than one such as yours", estimable means *good*, not easy to understand! It all makes sense now :) And those pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches served at Pemberley? For the entire table, not for each person.! Oh... We're literally talking about single words here that I feel like I'm reading for the first time :)

So yes, there's more to be gained every time I read it (and that's of course, besides everything that I forget).  But it's not all about tiny details... as always, my perspective on the characters themselves shifts when I follow their stories once again.  Darcy seems more than ever an awkward and reserved man, not necessarily the paragon of perfection we like to imagine him as.  Mr. Bennet's neglect of his family gets more comdemnable.  Georgiana's youth is even more apparent.  Wickham's impudence shocks and amuses more than ever.  5 years, alternative perspectives, and attentive reading will get you that.

To some extent then,  the P&P experience is influenced by its supplementary universe.  But, too, reading the book itself reminds me of what it's really all about.  I feel like in the carefully crafted sentences I can find out the truth to what these characters feel and who they really are.  Yes, it's ridiculous to care so much (and you know I really don't), but reading all that paraliterature makes me appreciate the real thing all the more.  Oh the perfection of plot, of scene, of characters... and of prose! It's simply ridiculously well written.  Elegant, subtle, and gently mocking all the while.   With feeling ever present, but always restrained, often hidden.

Which brings me to another point - P&P is a romance, but a hidden romance.  I don't know, if I was reading it for the first time, whether I'd appreciate it as a romance at all.  There are none (or very few) of those "angsty" moments I love.  Darcy loves Elizabeth, and it's stated more than once... but JA doesn't go out of the way to twist our heartstrings with his longing for her.  But it's there... oh it's there... and luckily for me, I don't have a problem remembering that.

And because I do, I can revel in the original hate-at-first-sight, he-loves-her-all-the-while tale... perfectly written, perfectly humorous, and perfectly wise on top of that.  I really don't think it's just my bias talking - there is just nothing bad about this book.  Ok, it has its tense moments, its uncomfortable interludes... but we know we need them.

So what can I say on picking up P&P five years later, older and wiser? It's still the best book over... maybe because it can still surprise as much as because its first goodness holds fast.  There is only one P&P... but boy are we lucky to have even that :)

Verdict... oh what can a measly number say about perfection? If you will have though, 5/5.  No, 6/5.  No... this is silly.  Perfect.  What else is there to it?