Donna Leon's book of a lifetime - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Thursday 27 March 2014
Yes, it is about love, but sometime later in life the reader realizes it is also about the love that comes from resignation, seen when Charlotte Lucas accepts the offer of the unspeakable, plodding Mr. Collins. She knows she is not young, and she is poor; she knows she is not a catch, and so she will accept Mr. Collins’ proposal and love him until death do them part. Mr. Bennet is mildly concerned for his daughters’ futures and puts up with his wife: it’s as close to love as this disappointed man can come, the best he can give. Lady Catherine probably loves her daughter, poor thing.
To read the book a half century later is also to see how overwhelmingly the book is about money. (Breaks your heart to read this, huh?) Every man has his worth, and it is expressed in pounds per year. Mr. Darcy is thus worth more than his friend Mr. Bingley, and indeed, he gets the sparkling Lizzie, and Mr. Bingley gets the sober, even-headed Jane. And Mr. Collins, who is not worth as much as either one of them, gets Charlotte Lucas. Frivolous – not to use a stronger word – Lydia gets Wickham, who has to be paid off to have her.
Lizzie and Jane and their sisters are pretty much – I don’t like having to say it – worthless. No dowry, father’s house entailed, no education, not even enough to enable them to be governesses: failed the arrival of Darcy and Bingley, what would await them?
What woman is worth the most? Lady Catherine’s listless, ailing daughter, Anne. One of the comforts of age is that even this grim knowledge of social reality does nothing to diminish the sparkle of life that fills every page of this most glorious of novels, and so the reading of it is a lifelong joy.
By Its Cover is published in hardback on 3 April (William Heinemann, £17.99)
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery reports: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Video: Boxer Vido Loncar brutally assaults referee following defeat
Mike Read 'apologises unreservedly' for Ukip Calypso and withdraws it from sale
Disney announces new female-led film Moana
Eight seconds of white noise is top of the Canadian iTunes chart because people love Taylor Swift that much
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Sensitive, silly and sensational
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991 with most Brits wanting to stay in'