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July 03, 2017

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

By: Jane Austen, Annotated & edited by David M. Shapard

This year, July 18 marks the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and Janeites everywhere are holding celebrations, book discussions, and performances in her honor.  I myself have been rereading her novels in preparation for our own Jane Austen Book Discussion on July 17 at 7pm (hope to see you there!), and I have found The Annotated Pride and Prejudice to be especially helpful for better understanding this timeless classic.  The pages on the left show the original text, and the pages on the right feature pictures and Shapard’s annotations (a fancy word for explanatory comments, like what I’m doing now!).  Shapard also wrote an introduction that provides a brief biography of Austen’s life, as well as the background of the novel she referred to as “my own darling child.”

With its many adaptations, retellings, and sequels, not to mention its obvious influence on the chick-lit and regency romance genres, Pride and Prejudice appears to be the darling in the public’s eye as well, or at least the most recognizable.  If you are new to Jane Austen, I highly recommend starting with Pride and Prejudice, and though an annotated volume might seem more dense, it can be helpful to newbies, as there are many cultural issues and vocabulary unfamiliar to the modern reader, especially those who have never read a regency novel.  For those returning to this novel, I have found that an annotated edition can significantly increase one’s understanding and appreciation of the novel’s themes, humor, and depth.

The story itself is, in Austen’s own words, “light & bright & sparkling.”  The characters, you either love to hate or love to see them stumble, learn, and eventually triumph.  Though the plot follows an unfolding romance between Darcy and Elizabeth, one that has influenced the bantering couple archetype, the themes of class prejudices, family embarrassments, and forgiveness and reconciliation are equally engaging.  Austen’s unique wit and style, charmingly displayed in this couple’s repartee, is something every reader should experience.  There is a reason for 200 years of hype!

Review By:  Alison Frolik