Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Publication date: 1813
Genre: Classic fiction

Preliminary note

As with a couple of other books in this challenge, this is not the first time I have read Pride and Prejudice. I have, in fact, become particularly familiar with it over the last couple of years, as I co-wrote a stage adaptation of it for my amateur dramatics group. However, the book remains on my list for 2015: and so I am choosing to view the changes it has inspired in my life in the context of writing the adaptation.

 

What’s it about?Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters must find husbands, or be turned out of their home when their parents die. When rich, handsome Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy appear on the scene, it looks as though the girls’ luck may be about to take a turn for the better.

However, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy do not immediately get along, and it takes many twists and turns of the plot for them to resolve their differences. Her prejudice and witty banter set against his pride and reticence make this a tense yet spirited relationship, with many obstacles to overcome before they can find true love.

Jane Austen’s novel manages to accurately capture human behaviour and societal mores, which are still recognisable to us 200 years later. Her biting satire of the foolish, along with her natural grasp of more subtle human emotions, make this book not only unputdownable but also – perhaps surprisingly – ‘laugh out loud’ on occasions.

Read more information on Goodreads.

Where did I get hold of the book?

I have a secondhand copy of this novel, which I think came from a secondhand bookshop. It’s the same edition as the text I studied at school 30 years ago, and is quite possibly the same age, as it’s beginning to fall apart at the seams. It has been very well thumbed!

What did I learn from it?

In the context of writing the adaptation, I learned that Jane Austen has a tendency to repeat herself: to say the same thing in a variety of ways. (See what I did there…?) Perhaps this is standard practice for a novel, when the author has the space to elaborate on issues and points as much as they please.

However, when trying to condense the dialogue for the stage – with only a couple of hours of performance time available – I found myself having to wield the red pen on numerous occasions. Hack! slash! there goes another sentence! It actually made it relatively easy to edit: just ask whether a phrase adds anything new, and if not, chop it or merge it with another one.

I also learned perhaps the most fascinating thing about adaptations, which is how to determine which elements of the story to convey/emphasise. It would be impossible to cover the full scope of Austen’s storylines in just two hours, so we had to decide whose story we were telling, what the key points were, and then ruthlessly cut anything that didn’t further this story in some way.

I wrote a few blog posts about this experience, which don’t form a visible part of my website any more, but which you can still access here if you are interested in learning more about the process.

How did it make me see the world differently?

The book reminded me of how frustrating it must have been for a woman with a brain and an independent spirit to exist in such a world. To be dependent on hitching one’s fortunes to a man in order to have any standing in society, not to mention a home, seems outlandish to those of us who are fortunate to live independently in the 21st century – and I thank my lucky stars that I do live now and not then.

It also made me realise how some people have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to matters of importance. Mrs Bennet is desperate to get her daughters hitched, and despite her lack of social graces, we can at least sympathise with this predicament. But am I the only one who rolls her eyes heavenwards as Mrs Bennet totally fails to recognise that Mary, the middle daughter, would be the perfect match for Mr Collins?

In an episode of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon Cooper, having read Pride and Prejudice, declares it to be a flawless masterpiece. When I see this missed opportunity for Mrs Bennet to solve all her problems (presumably because then there would be no story…) I sometimes think Sheldon has got it wrong.

But maybe it can be explained by the point I made above: that Mrs Bennet truly is clueless when it comes to human relationships. Rather than this oversight being an unlikely scenario, designed purely to keep the plot going, perhaps it simply underlines the idiocy of the character even further – thus making it even more likely that Darcy should resist marrying one of her daughters…

What changes will I make to my life as a result of it?

One of the realisations I’ve come to over the course of this year is that I love adaptations of all stripes, and I’ve already made the commitment to focus on writing more of my own in 2016. I have at least three alternative versions of Pride and Prejudice floating around in my brain, and I intend for at least one of them to see the light of day. (Note: does not include zombies…)

Re-reading the novel has also given me a hankering to visit Derbyshire. I believe Chatsworth House stood as the location for Pemberley in the 2005 film version, and I’d love to go back there and to the villages in the surrounding countryside. I went to Derbyshire a lot in my youth, mostly on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and it would be quite a blast from the past to revisit some of my own locations. Much like Mrs Gardiner in the novel.

We’re saving up for a big holiday next September, but if we get a chance for a weekend away any time soon, I’m going to be suggesting Derbyshire – and Chatsworth – as top of my list.

Over to you…

Has this post inspired you to read the book for yourself?

If you’ve read it, do you agree with what I’ve said? Did you have insights that I’ve not mentioned?

Please share in the comments below!

A Carnival of Words

Typewriter

I feel I’ve stepped into new territory this past week. My home town, Wrexham, hosted its very own literary festival, the Carnival of Words, and I signed up to as many events as it was humanly possible for me to attend.

As an introvert I should stress that this wasn’t very many! I’ve come to realise, through trial and error, that going out too much severely depletes my resources, even when the events are enjoyable and inspiring – perhaps because they’re enjoyable and inspiring. I put myself out there, talk to lots of people, engage with the topic, and generally throw myself into the moment.

And then I get home and collapse on the sofa.

This was certainly the case last week. On Tuesday I attended a Poems and Pints night at our local Welsh pub, Saith Seren. The evening was ostensibly to celebrate 150 years of Wrexham Football Club, but the poems weren’t limited to the football theme. A range of poets with very different styles, writing in both Welsh and English, gave readings of their work, and I happily sat back and took it all in.

I don’t write much poetry myself, but I love going to the open mic nights in my town, as it’s a great way of meeting up with fellow creators. If you’re a struggling writer, sitting at home wondering why no-one understands you, then you could do worse than hunt down any such events taking place near you. It’s wonderfully refreshing to go out and talk to others in the same situation; it certainly makes me feel part of a community rather than feeling I’m trying to do everything in a vacuum.

This was, essentially, the best thing about the week for me: meeting up with other writers, not just to appreciate and learn about their work, but to join that community and be reminded that writing is a valid life choice. It’s a difficult, often lonely, pursuit, but knowing that others ‘get it’ makes a huge difference.

Thursday saw me attend some writers’ workshops at our public library. Sadly, the one on graphic novels I’d been looking forward to was cancelled. I don’t draw, but the idea of teaming up with an illustrator to create a graphic novel is one that really excites me. I love the concept of words and pictures working together to form a whole – so much potential, so many different options to play with…

So I was very pleased that the workshop on writing for children went ahead as planned! As with graphic novels, what appeals to me about writing a children’s book is the idea of mixing words and pictures to form something greater than either can do on their own. I have the grain of an idea for a book; and, rather wonderfully, while I was sitting in the workshop I started imagining how I could grow it further. I’m in my happy place when I’m just beginning to develop an idea, so this workshop was time very well spent for me.

I also attended a playwriting session, which was interesting as I’ve just co-written a stage version of Pride and Prejudice. Clearly, writing an adaptation is very different to writing an original script, but I came away with lots of ideas for new work – my only problem will be finding the time to fit them in around my other ongoing projects! Maybe a new play will have to wait a while…

The day was rounded off by an author networking event, and this was one of the highlights of the week for me. As I mentioned earlier, I got to meet up with other local writers and chat about their experiences of anything from finding collaborators to self publishing. We also discussed the possibility of seting up local writers’ groups in different genres, and organising another general writers’ event later in the year. I’m in touch with the organisers so I’ll be kept posted of any plans, and I’m looking forward to this very much.

On to the last day of the Carnival, and I attended not one but two events: ‘Whovian Happenings‘ on Saturday morning, and ‘Romans to Redcoats‘ in the afternoon. The former featured two writers of Doctor Who spin-off novels, and fired my imagination so much that I wanted to go away and start writing my own fan fiction there and then! I’m a massive Doctor Who fan, and have more ideas than I know what to do with – actually transforming any of them into a workable story will be the biggest challenge, but one I probably do need to set myself at some point…

The afternoon’s event was a 3½-hour historical fiction fest. Now, historical fiction isn’t something I’ve read a great deal of, but every time I hear about a book in this genre I want to pick it up and get stuck right in: the issue, as always, is one of time. However, as you’ll know if you read my book challenge, making time for reading is something I’m actively trying to get a grip on, so I treated myself to a few books from the Waterstones stall in the foyer, and will be scheduling in time for them in the near future!

And it was this last session that made perhaps the biggest difference to me as a writer. It was a fairly small-scale event, so I got to chat to some of the writers about their work, which meant that I got to know them as people rather than just ‘names’. And so, afterwards, when I was reviewing Facebook comments about the event, I saw that some of the authors were ‘friends’ with a mutual friend… and I took the brave step of sending them friend requests myself. And they accepted!

This may not seem like much, but it means that in my newsfeed I now see updates, not from people who are merely thinking about writing, or (like me) talking about the difficulties of making time for it, but from people who are actually getting on and doing it. And that is incredibly inspiring. To follow people who are talking about things that enthuse me, and to be able to interact with them on a normal human level… it makes everything seem possible, if only I work hard enough and dedicate myself to my projects and my dreams.

And that is what the Carnival of Words has done for me. It has changed my attitude from that of ‘aspiring writer’ to that of ‘writer’.

It all begins here…!