Seven Ages of Books (5)
In the first part of this series, we went all the way back to my first decade and looked at the books and authors that influenced my very early years. In the second part, we moved forward into my teens, when I first discovered fantasy, a genre that is still one of my favourites today. In part three, I was in my twenties, and heavily in to science fiction. By part four, I had reached my thirties and we returned to the realms of fantasy.
A couple of times in this series, I have said I prefer reading the original book or listening to a dramatisation on the radio, since this allows me to use my imagination in a way film and TV do not. However, for today’s author and chosen book, there’s one interpretation that has entered the national psyche in much the way that David Suchet is for most people the epitome of Hercules Poirot.
We’ve reached my fifth decade, and it was in 1995 that Colin Firth stepped out of a lake and became THE face and body of Mr Darcy. Funnily enough, I watched that lake scene again recently, while preparing this piece, and was surprised to find it far less sexy and revealing than I remember. Memory is not always accurate after all.
I have seen Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice on TV; at least once as a film; and as a rather quirky play at Exeter’s Northcott theatre in 2017. Yet when I searched my bookshelves, I found Sense and Sensibility; Persuasion; Northanger Abbey; and a book of short stories. But of Pride and Prejudice there was no sign. Obviously, I must have read it when I was at school. (So please excuse the illustration).
Austin wrote a wonderful collection of characters: apart from Darcy, there’s the terrible Lade Catherine de Burgh, the silly Mrs Bennett; the even sillier Lydia; and Lizzy, prejudiced and just a little po-faced for me. But my favourite is the very sensible Mr Bennett. Dry, witty, with some comments that Oscar Wilde would have been proud to write, he above all reminds me that people are the same now as they were in the last decade of the eighteenth century. I’m sure we all know and cherish a Mr Bennett for his wisdom in the face of either Pride or Prejudice.