The final pair of books I chose to read for BookTubeAthon 2013 were Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Shannon Hale’s Austenland. I should disclose upfront that in preparing this blog post I rewatched the Mr-Darcy-wet-shirt scene multiple times – only in the interests of research, you understand.
Both novels are romantic comedies and both explore the theme of overcoming character flaws in order to be open to love. In Elizabeth Bennet’s case that of prejudice and in Jane Haye’s a tendency to ignore the real for fantasy. P&P is of course also a wonderful character study and exploration of Regency mores. Austenland doesn’t attempt to live up to Austen’s standard here, choosing instead to explore the blurred line between romantic fantasy and reality.
Elizabeth Bennet is a stronger heroine than Jane Hayes but the latter wins the reader’s sympathies precisely because of her vulnerabilities. She knows she has a weakness and is taking action to work on it. Other than their love of Mr Darcy, the heroines of both P&P and Austenland share a witty sense of humour. I was pleasantly surprised how well Austenland stood up to P&P in this case. Of course Hale can’t match Austen’s subtle wit and repartee, but I spent several enjoyable hours reading Austenland.
On the side of the romantic interest, Darcy, especially as played by Colin Firth (see above wet shirt scene) is held up to be the ultimate love interest. I suspect that Austen only intended him to be the perfect love interest for Elizabeth Bennet, but thanks to the BBC and Colin Firth he is now the ideal for many. Other than roleplaying a Darcyesque character Austenland’s “Mr Nobley” is not the brooding, strong silent hero type. In some ways his vulnerability makes him almost an anti-Darcy – but then again discarding fantasy for reality is the whole theme of this novel.
Between them the two books allowed me to complete challenge 5 (read a book that’s been on your shelf for ages; Austenland), challenge 6 (listen to an audiobook P&P) and challenge 7 (read a classic; also P&P). Additionally, reading them takes me to 2,398 pages for the week, completing challenge 1 (read an average of 300 pages per day). I have now completed all seven challenges.
Thanks again to Raeleen and Ariel for organising this. I hope all other participants had as much fun as I did.