Monday, May 29, 2006

AUDIOBOOK: Pride and Prejudice on Librivox

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Audiobook reviews, of necessity, fall into two parts: the book itself and the recording of it.

Pride and Prejudice is, at it's heart, a romantic comedy, a Regency Romance. One of the early examples of the genre, like all of Austen's work, it is a classic. In my opinion, the enduring nature of her work is because it addresses very universal issues. Issues little changed in 200 years - what makes a good or bad marriage, how women and men best relate to each other as equals.

Regency Romance can be very badly done. Some of the books that were contemporary to Austen's work have not stood the test of time well at all; and you only have to look in any second hand bookseller's to find a multitude of modern examples of the genre that are nothing more than 'doritos for the mind'. And some of them are badly edited, too. I remember one where the hero's hair color mysteriously changed midway through the book *G*.

P&P as we've lovingly called it over at Knit the Classics, is not just fluff. While not preaching, it addresses women's rights, women's place in the world firmly. Elizabeth, as one of five daughters, would have been expected to marry. And marry the sooner the better. But she declines her first proposal by her cousin, Mr. Collins, because she cannot respect him. Indeed, she rejects the first proposal of her eventual husband as well, because she thinks that he does not respect her.

The novel abounds with marriages both unhappy (or potentially unhappy) between partners that have no respect for each other (the Collins', the Bennett parents, Lydia and Mr. Wickham) and happy because they DO respect each other (Elizabeth's own marriage, Jane and Mr. Bingly, the Gardiner's). Austen has some very firm views about mutual respect being essential to mutual happiness.

I listened to this novel on Librivox ( which is a wonderful site with the avowed purpose of putting as many public domain books as possible onto the web in human read mp3 format as possible. This particular book is actually on their site twice; I recommend the solo project read by Annie Coleman. She doesn't try to do accents, but within a chapter you come to appreciate the way that she pitches her voice consistently for each character. It makes the dialogue quite easy to follow. The overall sound quality is excellent and the editing unobtrusive. Highly recommended.

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