I first read Pride and Prejudice during my first year teaching (which was 1997-1998, and I know it was 1998 when I read the novel). I fell in love with Jane Austen that year. Despite my affection for Ms. Austen, I had not re-read any of her novels, though I have watched adaptations in film. I decided I was overdue for a re-read of Pride and Prejudice, and this annotated version of the novel appealed to the scholar in me. I had hoped to learn some new interesting things or gain new insights from the David Shapard’s annotations, and I was not disappointed.
In some cases, the annotations were repetitive (for example, for each reference to “town,” Shapard reminds the reader that “town” refers to London). However, learning the differences between the different types of carriages, gaining insight into the conventions of the day, and so much more that I can’t possibly list it all here really enhanced my enjoyment of the book. I am currently listening to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and I find that the annotations in Pride and Prejudice have enhanced my enjoyment of that novel, too—after all, it owes a great deal to Jane Austen. A sojourn in Jane Austen’s novels is always rewarding, and I wonder if it’s possible to feel homesick for a place you’ve never even been except in books.
If you haven’t seen the new blog Following Jane, you might want to check it out. It’s interesting to read the perspectives of man dedicating himself to reading all of Jane Austen’s novels and blogging about his experiences. In a recent post written before he started Northanger Abbey, his first selection, he mentioned he was anxious to finish the book he had been reading at the time so that he could start reading Austen. I know that feeling. As I reach the end of the book, my thoughts are turning toward my next read, which will be A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. All the talk about Shapiro’s new book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, has inspired quite a lot of quick reviews of A Year in the Life, which I have on my shelf and haven’t read. Austen and Shakespeare, my two favorite authors. How I’d love to sit down and have tea with them both.
Pride and Prejudice is my fourth selection for the Typically British Challenge, and concludes the “Gordon Bennett” level of four novels that I committed to read. I may read other British authors over the course of the year (the challenge expires on December 31), but I can claim for the first time ever that I actually finished a reading challenge.