Timeless or tedious? 'Pride and Prejudice may not address the social problems of the time but it is as relevant now as the day it was written'

As Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy reappear in yet another dramatisation, we ask if Jane Austen's classic really is the most perfect English novel - or just a 19th-century Mills & Boon

The leading man of Jane Austen's novel is also shockingly rude, which, according to Bridget Jones, the mid-1990s reincarnation of the book's heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, makes him even more irresistible, although she added that "being imaginary was a disadvantage that could not be overlooked".

But why on earth should a man so, well, wooden; so prone to long periods of silence; so likely to ignore you and not return your calls had the mobile phone been invented almost 200 years ago, have endured so well? And why does Lizzy Bennet - not the most beautiful of literary creatures, or the most spirited, or the most complicated - remain the woman we still root for; most want to be like?

First, let me address the unique appeal of Mr Darcy. He is a bastard and, although I hate to admit it, women love bastards. Just look at Heathcliff, or Sex and the City's Mr Big, or ER's Doctor Doug Ross. We like a challenge. We aspire to the unattainable, the slightly out of our league. We don't hanker after men who are too nice, who return our calls and send us giant appliquéd birthday cards.

Jane Austen was the very first writer to be honest about this, to acknowledge that women would be intrigued by "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world". Mr Darcy was most definitely not a new man; neither, I hasten to add, was he a metrosexual (when I first read the book, aged 12, I had in mind a vision of Jason King, very manly and covered with wiry hair). Of course, we all say we want our husbands to recycle and go to M&S in their lunch hour, but these are not qualities we masturbate over.

And, of course, Lizzy is the perfect literary heroine. We warm to her in the same way we warm to Carrie Bradshaw or Bridget Jones, because she has flaws. She isn't calculating in the way Emma is, or pathetic in the way Jane Eyre is when she wanders off to pine in a vicarage. No, our Lizzy is self-sufficient and determined. She isn't girly, thank Christ, nor desperate. She doesn't fawn or simper. She is intelligent, unafraid, and very much her own person.

Pride and Prejudice is, to my mind, the greatest novel in English literature. No, it doesn't address the social problems of the day - I think there is one reference in Austen's novels to the slave trade - but its honest depiction of early 19th century life; of the constrictions in which women were forced to operate, and its sharp observations about the relationship between men and women, with no self-deception, is as fresh and relevant now as the day it was written.

Nothing much, really, has changed since the book was published in 1813. Men and women still don't understand each other. Women are still trying to get men to do things they don't want to do. We are still trying to get off with people who don't fancy us. Take Mr Bennet. He doesn't listen, he feels hen-pecked, he wants peace and quiet and to be left alone in his chair.

The best thing about this book, apart from the love story, is the humour. Take the scene where Mr and Mrs Bennet are discussing the merits of their daughters. Mr Bennet is railing at their foolishness and their obsession with young men. "My dear Mr Bennet," says his wife. "You must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do."

But do we really need yet another film adaptation of this comic classic? In the latest screen version, which premieres in London on Monday, Keira Knightley plays Lizzy Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen is Mr Darcy - not a patch, I am sure, on Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, whose on-screen chemistry in the BBC version was infinitely more erotic than Nine Songs, which I thought was, frankly, rather boring.

But at least another outing for the story will prompt a new generation of young women to read the book and laugh out loud and marvel at how Jane Austen, the seventh child of a country parson, who never ventured far beyond Hampshire; who only ever did chores and read books and who died aged 42, could have created the most perfect romance ever written. Ooh, and there is a happy ending. Always, always a bonus.

"Liz Jones's Diary: How One Single Girl Got Married", is out now, published by Quadrille, £12.99.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower