Gentle Readers All: Please see below to enter into the Giveaway for a copy of Susannah Fullerton’s Celebrating Pride and Prejudice.
Today I welcome Susannah Fullerton, president of JASA, author of numerous articles on Jane Austen, a leader of literary tours , and author of Jane Austen and Crime (2006), A Dance with Jane Austen (2012), and most recently the author of Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece [Happily Ever After in the UK].
Susannah shares with us a few thoughts on the her new work and the joys of discovering and re-discovering Austen’s most popular novel – and out just in time as we all celebrate the 200th bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice this year, all beginning on January 28th. I highly recommend this book, a must-have for your Austen Library, a perfect companion to the novel, and a lovely work in its own right.
And now Susannah:
I was about 11 years old when my mother first read me Pride and Prejudice. We were away on a family holiday in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the only thing I remember of the visit there was lying at the end of a double bed while my Mum read aloud. It was not all joy – I did get very frustrated when she stopped to laugh. I was too young to appreciate the irony of the novel and just wanted to know what would happen to Elizabeth and Darcy. Now of course I know exactly why my mother laughed. In spite of my mother’s ‘interruptions’, I loved the story, and soon went back to read it by myself.
Mr Darcy, by Robert Ball. Pride and Prejudice (Doubleday 1945)
[image from Austenprose.com]
So for just over 40 years Pride and Prejudice has been a vital part of my life. That first reading has been followed by countless others. Sometimes I have just picked up the book and it has fallen open in just the right place (any place is the right place) and I’ve read of the Meryton Ball, or one of Darcy’s proposals, or a scene with Mr Collins making a fool of himself. Even a ‘one page reading’ has always left me feeling better. Again and again I have picked it up and started with that brilliant opening sentence (to which I devote a whole chapter in my book!) and gone through to the end, knowing exactly what would happen but loving it more every single time.
And I have read ‘P & P’ in other ways – I adore unabridged audio versions, I’ve read it as a comic book, I’ve read it on my Kindle, and of course I’ve seen film versions and loved them too. Elizabeth and Darcy are my dear friends and while I would not want to actually meet Mr Collins, I always delight in his company within the pages of Jane Austen’s great novel.
It has been said that you never read the same book twice! Every re-reading is a different experience – you know what is going to happen within the plot and so you look out for other things. And with ‘P & P’ there are always other things – some slight nuance you missed last time you read it, a different inflection by an audio book reader can make you react to a sentence you know well in a different way, and you pick up on the tiny details of setting or character that you failed to notice last time. And the other thing that means you are not reading exactly the same novel, is that you yourself have changed. You have grown older and wiser, experienced things in your own life that have slightly altered you from the person you were on the first reading. I groaned over Mrs Bennet when I first met her – she was so vulgar and embarrassing and I pitied Elizabeth for having to put up with her. But now I’m a mother myself, with children who are forming romantic partnerships, and I have so much more sympathy for Mrs Bennet. And as a wife, I can understand her frustration when Mr Bennet goes off to the library and shuts the door, leaving the worries of 5 unmarried daughters totally up to her. Reading Pride and Prejudice changes your life, but your life also changes each re-reading of Pride and Prejudice.
With such a deep love of this novel, you can imagine what a joy it was for me to sit down and write a book about its incredible 200 years. I could not think of a nicer way to celebrate this important literary anniversary. For months I was immersed in its pages, learning even more about the book and its characters as I worked on my own book. I was so fascinated by the translations of it – how very quickly it was translated into another language and what a mess was made of that first translation, and what huge challenges it gives a translator (do you think Mr and Mrs Bennet should say ‘vous’ or ‘tu’ to each other in a French translation – I’d love to hear your opinion?). I especially loved writing my chapter on Elizabeth, trying to analyse what it is that makes her so charming and lovable, while not making her a ‘goody-goody’ in whom we can’t believe. I had lots of fun with my chapter on all the merchandise inspired by this novel – don’t you just love the idea of a BBQ apron that announces ‘Let’s BBQ Wickham!’ And I was fascinated by the responses to ‘P & P’ over 200 years from famous people. A.A. Milne quite rightly judged people by their reactions to this book, while Robert Louis Stevenson wanted to go down on his knees and worship Elizabeth Bennet whenever she opened her mouth.
My book is very gorgeously illustrated and has pictures that may be unfamiliar to many. It is available in two editions – the American edition is Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece and the UK edition is Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I do hope my book gives pleasure to those of you who read it, and also teaches you new things about this much-loved novel.
HAPPY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE ANNIVERSARY YEAR!
About the Author:
Susannah Fullerton is President of JASA, and author of Jane Austen – Antipodean Views, Jane Austen and Crime, A Dance with Jane Austen, and her latest Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece – note that the UK title of this work is Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Frances Lincoln, 2012).
Celebrating Pride and Prejudice
Voyageur Press, January 1, 2013
ISBN-10: 0760344361; ISBN-13: 978-0760344361
Contents: (I have abbreviated the title to P&P)
- ‘My Own Darling Child’- The Writing of P&P
- ‘A Very Superior Work’ – Reactions to P&P
- ‘A Truth Universally Acknowledged’ – The Famous First Sentence
- ‘Bright and Sparkling’ – The Style of P&P
- ‘As Charming a Creature’ – The Heroine, Elizabeth Bennet
- ‘Mr Darcy … is the Man!’ – The Hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy
- ‘The Female Line’ – Her Relations
- ‘The Same Noble Line’ – His Relations
- ‘Delighting in the Ridiculous’ – Other Characters
- P&P Goes Overseas – The Translations
- ‘Pictures of Perfection’ – Illustrating and Covering P&P
- Did They Live Happily Ever After? – Sequels and Adaptations
- Bonnets and Bosoms – Film and Theatrical Versions
- Mugs and Skateboards – Selling P&P
- ‘Behold Me Immortal’ – P&P Now and in the Future
- Bibliography and Index
Please enter into the drawing for a copy of Celebrating Pride and Prejudice by commenting below: either by asking Susannah a question or telling us of your first experience in reading Pride and Prejudice [or like Susannah, perhaps being read to?]. Deadline is Tuesday January 29, 2013 11:59 pm; winner will be announced on Wednesday January 30th. Worldwide eligibility. Good luck all, and thank you to the publisher for donating the book for the giveaway [please note that I happily purchased my own copy].