Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my third selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

If you can, take yourself back to 1993. Some of you reading this review were not even born yet, so bear with me. Imagine the Jane Austen universe pre Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy emerging soaking wet from Pemberley pond in the 1995 A&E/BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice. No dripping Darcy. No thousands of Jane Austen-inspired prequels, sequels and inspired-by novels and self-help books brimming book shelves at your local bookstore. No buy-it-now button at your favorite online retailer. No INTERNET for that matter! You have read Pride and Prejudice (multiple times) and seen both the adaptations: the1940 movie starring Laurence Olivier and the 1980 BBC mini-series starring David Rintoul on Masterpiece Theatre. You are violently in love with Jane Austen’s novel and know of no one else who shares your obsession—and then one day you are in a bookstore and see Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant. You stare at it in total disbelief. Could someone else continue the story of your beloved Elizabeth and Darcy? Could you be back at Pemberley again?

Now that you have a closer understanding of the environment that Tennant’s brave foray into Jane Austen sequeldom entered in 1993, and what anticipation the reader might have felt, you will have a greater appreciation of its tepid reception. When the vast majority read this book they delusionally expected Jane Austen, again. How could they possibly not be disappointed? By the time I read it in 2002 it had gotten a bad rap all-around by media reviewers and pleasure readers. My first impressions were not positive either. Now, after eleven years of reading numerous Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels that have been published in its wake— I have re-read it with an entirely new perspective—with an open heart and a sense of humor.

Image of the book cover of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued: by Emma Tennant © St. Martin’s Press 1993 It has been almost a year since the happy day in which Mrs. Bennet got rid of two of her most deserving daughters. Elizabeth Darcy nee Bennet is learning the ropes of being the chatelaine of Pemberley House while obsessing over her insecurities and lack of producing an heir. Her dear father has died and his entailed estate of Longbourn has passed on to his cousin Mr. Collins and his wife Charlotte. The displaced Mrs. Bennet and her two unmarried daughters Mary and Kitty have taken up residence at Meryton Lodge, their new home not far from Longbourn and neighbors Mrs. Long and Lady Lucas. Elizabeth’s elder sister Jane and her husband Charles Bingley have purchased an estate in Yorkshire thirty miles from Pemberley. After four years of marriage they have one daughter and another on the way. Thoughtless younger sister Lydia, her ner-do-well husband George Wickham and their four children are continually in debt and an embarrassment to Elizabeth and her family.

The holidays are approaching and the plans for the annual festivities will include gathering family at Pemberley for Christmas and a New Year’s Ball. Besides Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, the guest list is growing out-of-control. Even under the care of her capable housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds, Elizabeth is overwhelmed. Included are Elizabeth’s family: some welcome and others not. Mrs. Bennet, Mary and Kitty will make their first visit to Pemberley. Jane will also journey with her husband and his sisters Miss Caroline Bingley, Mrs. Hurst and her husband. Elizabeth’s favorite Uncle and Aunt Gardiner have let a house nearby so that the unwelcome George Wickham and his family can visit with Mrs. Bennet. Also on the guest list is Mr. Darcy’s officious Aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh who disapproved of Darcy’s choice of bride but seems to have mended the fence enough for an extended stay. Arriving with her is her unmarried daughter Anne and the heir to the Pemberley estate, a distant cousin of Lady Catherine, Master Thomas Roper. Shortly before Mrs. Bennet is to depart for Pemberley she reveals to her friend Mrs. Long that even though Mr. Bennet departed this life but nine months ago, she intends to marry Colonel Kitchiner, a cousin and a crush from her youth whose father was a business partner of her father in Meryton. She has invited him to Pemberley as well—so it is a full house of unlikely companionship for its new mistress.

Any fans of Pride and Prejudice will recognize the irony of the guest list. The back story from the original novel and the combination of personalities is a set-up for the conflicts that inevitably arrive even before the guests do. Tennant has fudged on the facts from the original novel which were a bit off-putting. I remember being irked by this the first time around, and the second time did not sit as well either. Jane and Elizabeth were married on the same day in P&P, yet she chose to have Elizabeth marry Mr. Darcy four years after the original event—and how could any author writing a sequel or any historical novel set in the Regency-era not understand the ins and outs of British primogeniture? Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s cousin Thomas Roper, also the cousin of Mr. Darcy’s mother Ann, could not be the heir to Pemberley. If so, it would mean that the Darcy family and his mother a Fitzwilliam were related in earlier generations. This is possible but highly confusing to the reader who may understand the English inheritance laws, or not.

Image of the book cover of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued: by Emma Tennant © St. Martin’s Press 2006 Quibbles in continuity and cultural history aside, my second impressions of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued were much more favorable—at least I didn’t despise it anymore. With the exception of Elizabeth Bennet being overly angst ridden and atypically un-spirited, I enjoyed Tennant’s characterizations of the delightfully dotty Mrs. Bennet and the slippery Bingley sisters. My biggest disappointment remained with the male characters. We see all of the action through Elizabeth’s eyes, and since she is uncertain and overly grateful of Darcy’s love, their relationship is strained and unpleasant. He is proud again and given nothing to say, and she is too unprejudiced to do anything about it. Tennant excelled most with her new creations: Mr. Gresham, Thomas Roper and the hysterical Col. Kitchiner who rivals the odious Mr. Collins (thankfully not invited to Pemberley) in the role of buffoon.

I appreciate Tennant much more as a writer than I did at first reading. It was interesting to put Pemberley into a wider perspective after many years. She was helping to create a new genre in which many would follow. This first attempt, though seriously flawed, merits some respect and congratulations. It is a must read for any ardent Austenesque fan, but most will be disappointed.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant
St. Martins Press (2006) reprint
Trade paperback (226) pages
ISBN: 978-0312361792

Cover image courtesy St. Martins Press © 2006; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

55 thoughts on “Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant – A Review

  1. Thanks for the review, I just may have to add this one to my ever growing TBR list. :)

    Here are my entries for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge since I do not have a blog:
    #6- I read Friendship of a Special Kind by Moira Bianchi
    #7- I read Celebrating Pride and Prejudice : 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece by Susannah Fullerton
    #8- I read Celebrating Pride and Prejudice 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Darling by Hazel Jones and Maggie Lane

    A very productive Jane Austen month for me…not so much for my house work!

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  2. I read this quite a while ago. The one thing that put me off, and still does, is the timeline. If one is going to “continue” the original story one doesn’t mess with the timeline. Was it necessary to give Lydia four children and Jane 1.5? Add to that Lizzie both getting lost on the Pemberley grounds and then flipping her sh*t and running off to Charlotte Lucas/Collins…bleah.

    (and I hadn’t noticed the primogeniture/Roper issue then, but good point)

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  3. My review of The Real Jane Austin by Paula Byrne came out yesterday: . Heard the interview on our local public radio station, and decided it would be perfect for my 3rd post of this challenge. By the way, do continuations of Jane Austin’s unfinished novels qualify? I love the continuation of Sanditon, by Jane Austen and “another lady.”

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  4. I’m not sure I could get past the timeline issues, but maybe I’ll try this!

    I have read three books for the Challenge so far, and haven’t previously entered them in the monthly posts, so I’m doing all three here. Hope that is okay.
    1. Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott http://justasecondblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/recent-reads-georgiana-darcys-diary.html
    2.Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell http://justasecondblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/recent-reads-pemberley-ranch.html
    3. Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken http://justasecondblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/recent-reads-lady-catherines-necklace.html

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  5. I read this quite awhile ago, as one of my first P&P fics and as I recall I didn’t really care for it. All I remember is disliking Bingley and all the tension between Lizzy and Darcy. If I were to read it again now, after having read more P&Ps, I may also see it a bit differently.

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  6. I apologize for being very far behind updating and posting reviews for the bicentennary challenge but here are my reads thus far for the year

    1. Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds (January)
    2. Pride, Peejudice and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant (January)
    3. Mr D Bites Back by Mary Simonsen (January)
    4. According to Jane by Marilyn Brant (January)
    5. Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds (February)

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  7. My Dahling friend, I don’t care what you say, once was enough for me. I read your review and thought “well maybe.” Then I re-read my own amazon review and remembered exactly why I hated this book. I usually am open-minded to much of JAFF. Here are my thoughts upon reading it about 4 years ago.
    “I am a huge fan of all things Pride and Prejudice and admit can be extremely forgiving with authors that take huge literary liberties when the writing is good and the story and characters interesting. But this was hardly worth the effort. I found myself struggling to continue this read by even the first chapter. Elizabeth is weak and filled with self-doubt; Darcy and Elizabeth do not speak together hardly at all, regardless of what Tennant tries to make you believe of their devotion and love for each other; Mrs. Bennett is beyond stupid; Georgiana is spoiled and petty. There is very little dialogue of any value; the story is weak because the author did not trouble herself to continue in any explanation when merited. For example, Lizzy inadvertaently has to spend the night in an abandoned gypsy tent when she is caught out in the rain — and after she is found, there is no real dialogue between the Darcy’s and this happens the night before they are to have a house full of relations arrive — and then no one gets a proper explanation as to why the Mistress of Pemberley is not available to properly receive them! It was all very odd and utterly unbelievable. And that is just about the extent of that description! I would not buy this book. Better to go with anything but this!” The rest of the book was just as frustrating. But kudos to you for giving it another go. But with all on your reading list, why bother?

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    • Ha! Yes, I agree with all of your comments – but you must have missed the part in my review that said I was reading it with an open heart and a sense of humor! As high comedy it is amusing.

      I realize that many will not have the time or patience for this one, but it is a must read for ardent Austenesque fans. Everyone needs to understand the early attempts. It is a short read and will make the good ones so much better.

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  8. They were married four years later? That seems so unlikely! Did she give a reason?

    I think I might be experiencing the opposite, Laurel Ann. The more years go by, the more Austenesque literature that comes onto the scene, the more critical and discerning I become. I do understand the magnitude of what Emma Tennant accomplished for her time period, but there are other authors who have done better. Joan Austen-Leigh for example, whose gem of an epistolary novel is titled, A Visit to Highbury (1995). It was originally published as Mrs. Goddard, Mistress of a School in 1993. Too bad they are so hard to find!

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    • No explanation Meredith of the time changes, and it did not really serve any purpose other than allowing Elizabeth’s sisters to have children before her and make her feel guilty for not having one of her own yet. Just weird. I have not read Joan Austen-Leigh’s work yet. I must track down a copy. I think we have both come full circle on the acceptance level Meredith – just at different curves at the moment.

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  9. I haven’t read this one yet, I’ll add it to my list (which is getting very long!).

    Here’s my third review for the Bicentenary Challenge, on “The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen”:

    Dear Syrie James – please continue to ‘find’ lost Jane Austen manuscripts and publish them for the rest of us. Thank you, that is all.

    Loved this book from beginning to end. Like Austen’s novels, you knew who Rebecca was going to end up with in the end, but you don’t care, because the journey is wonderful and worth it. I lives how Ms. James worked in so many plot devices from Austen’s stories, even in the non-Austen story. This is a wonderful book for Janeites and Austen novices alike.

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  10. I haven’t read this book but may add it to my TBR list. The fact that the author helped create the genre of books that are so popular and that I dearly love, makes it more desirable.

    Below are the review links to my 2nd and 3rd books for the challenge.

    Darcy on the Hudson by Mary Simonsen
    http://moreagreeablyengaged.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-share-of-conversation.html

    Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe
    http://moreagreeablyengaged.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-review.html

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  11. Again, I enjoyed and appreciated your review and the subsequent comments! I agree that the errant timeline and bad characterization of Elizabeth and Darcy are enough to incline me against reading Tennet’s book, but I do give her credit and thanks for being one of the first in writing sequels.

    My March reading is, “The Darcys of Pemberley: The Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice” by Shannon Winslow. Now here is a sequel that satisfies and delights on every level, I felt! I find Shannon’s writing wonderfully Austenesque, her characters feel true to the original, or with a light softening, or modernizing trend, and the story enthralling! She even has Jane Austen’s humorous way of describing her characters, as when she introduces Mr. Bennet, as “a gentleman of satirical wit and indolent habit, chiefly amuses himself with the perusal of books and the study of human folly. These entertainments he keeps close to hand, possessing a fine library for one and an obliging family for the other.” I had read her short story of “Mr. Collins’s Last Supper” before starting this and enjoyed it as well, and was intrigued and happy with the life she then created for Charlotte, for whom I’ve always had an affection. I thought perhaps her account of the interactions with the Wickhams a little far-fetched and overly dramatic, but it made for an exciting read and a happy outcome, in my humble opinion! :-) I hope others will enjoy this bright and happy sequel as well!

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  12. Interesting review of a book I haven’t read before.
    I read Austenland, by Shannon Hale and reviewed it both on my Goodreads account and my blog.

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  13. A weekend with Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly
    Paperback – Harper Collins 2010
    ISBN 978 1 84756 225 8

    I managed to read this book very quickly. It is about attending a Jane Austen conference and the Jane Austen addicts who participate in the conference. It was a light weight read but nevertheless entertaining. This will be my fourth review for the Jane Austen Challenge and I have to say I am really enjoying this challenge as I have read books I had not come across before and feel I am really getting to know Pride and Prejudice and the many spin offs that have been written.

    I found it interesting to read about the interweaving tale of two Jane Austen addicts. One is Dr Katherine Roberts a young beautiful lecturer at Oxford University and an expert on Jane Austen and the other is Robyn Love a romantic who adores reading Jane Austen novels and watching any Jane Austen based film. They both attend a Jane Austen conference put on by Dame Pamela Harcourt at her home Purley Hall in Hampshire. Katherine and Robyn meet and become friends.
    Dr Roberts also loves reading Regency novels and even devours the more racy ones.
    Her guilty secret is that she reads the novels of Lorna Warwick whom Jane Austen purists would not normally admit to reading.
    Robyn has a job in North Yorkshire, a love of animals and a strange boyfriend named Jason Collins who will not even attempt to read Jane Austen. Why I thought are Robyn and Jason together but all is revealed as the story unfolds.
    The weekend retreat Dr Roberts hopes will be an opportunity for her to meet with Lorna Warwick with whom she has struck up a correspondence. Dr Roberts wrote several fan letters and Lorna Warwick has replied.
    Meanwhile Robyn hopes the retreat will allow her to distance herself from Jason and enjoy the total immersion in all things Jane Austen that the weekend promises.
    There are misunderstandings, revelations and romance to wallow in as the tale unfolds to a satisfying conclusion.
    I liked the style of writing but some of the characters like Mrs Soames who grumbles at everything and who could do no right seemed to be one dimension stereotypes.
    I liked the details of the conference that are given. It all adds to my enjoyment of the book. The quiz questions set at the conference are included as are details of the conference sessions. I felt I wanted to attend a Jane Austen Conference myself.
    On the back cover I found a content guide wheel with pictures showing there was to be friendship, humour, drama and love. I appreciated that detail from the publisher.

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    • Glad you had the chance to read one of Victoria Connelly’s Mr Darcy books. This is where I fell in love with VC’s writing and couldn’t wait to get each book as it was published! She has such a light touch and interesting character development…
      HapPy reading ! :))

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  14. Pride and Prejudice Bicentarary Challenge – #3
    “Pemberley, or Pride and Prejudice Continued”, Emma Tennant

    The cover of this book has a quote from “Lady Antonia Fraser, “Authentic and convincing…”. I have read it, and it is neither.

    My copy of the book is small with an old fashioned look. The font has a 19th century feel to it. It all adds to the Austen atmosphere. And I commend Ms. Tennant for breaking ground and beginning an Austen revival that we all enjoy so much today.

    But the characters are poorly drawn, especially Elizabeth and Darcy. How they ever married is hard to imagine – she’s in over her head and he could care less. I miss the wit – the sparkling give and take, the humor. It’s just not here.

    And, as been pointed out, the timeline is all wrong.

    The book deserves a place in my Austen library, but I was sadly disappointed.

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  15. Laural Ann, I read this book quite a few years ago and if my memory serves me right I did not like it very much but maybe if read as a comedy I would like it better. Being in the right frame of mind I suppose helps.

    I’ve listened to my March P&P entry, which was your first and I have to say that your pick was WEL DONE! Loved it. Anyway here’s my review.

    This audio was amazing! I can’t say enough about Emilia Fox and her rendition of Pride and Prejudice! As Caroline Bingley would say ” she had the air and manner in her voice” that complimented every character in the book. I guess I was just a little surprised because I was prejudiced into thinking of little Georgiana Darcy and thought that was what you would get in her voice. But NO, she expertly read every Character as they ought to be read. I felt that I was watching the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice in my mind. This audio book is not to be missed by ANY Jane Austen fan! And I highly recomend it to anyone who is even thinking of reading any of Jane’s works. This was truely wonderful and if I could rate it higher I would

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  16. I’m glad the book improved on your second read, but I think with all the Austenesque books out there, that’ll I’ll pass on this one. Isn’t Tennant the one who wrote a sequel to Emma that involved some lesbian affair?? I have no idea.

    My latest challenge reviews:

    A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park by Mary Lydon Simonsen
    http://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/review-a-walk-in-the-meadows-at-rosings-park-by-mary-lydon-simonsen/

    For All the Wrong Reasons by Mary Lydon Simonsen
    http://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/review-for-all-the-wrong-reasons-by-mary-lydon-simonsen/

    All Hallow’s Eve by Wendi Sotis
    http://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/review-all-hallows-eve-by-wendi-sotis/

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    • Yes, Anna, Tennant is the one who wrote a Emma sequel in which a lesbian affair is involved. The novel is quite interesting, as Emma’s character remains -almost- the same and reinforces some other characters like Frank Churchill, though some other minor ones are totally ridiculed.
      I still recomend it, as it is quite enjoyable. At least more than some of her other sequels, such as “Elinor and Marianne”, which I would tell you not to read.

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  17. Hello everyone!
    This month I reread for the thousandth time “Pride & Prejudice” by dear Jane Austen. I read it every year and I could not miss this particular year because it is too important to celebrate the bicentenary of the novel. I love it! I love everything about it: the characters, the places, the balls, the journeys people do.
    My favourite character is Mr. Darcy, not only because I would love to meet a man like him, but because I like the way he changes for love. It is something we don’t see every day (even if I believe Darcy has always been a good man but he was not able to show his true feelings, he needed someone special to remind him what the important things were).
    I like, of course, the heroine Elizabeth Bennet because of her wit and patience towards her family: her mother is a thorn in her daughters’ side! And I appreciate every time the goodness and sweetness of Jane, I think Mr. Bingley deserves her.
    On the contrary, I cannot stand Wickham and Lydia. I mean, I like the way Jane describes their personality but I found myself talking alone on the silliness of the young Bennet and the behavior without shame of Wickham. I was ashamed for them!
    Anyway, this is an incredible novel I will love forever and I always read it with great pleasure. I would love to read something more about Miss Anne de Bourgh. Perhaps I will write an Austen inspired novel dedicated to her… well, I would like to try, I am not a writer! I would like to know how her life evolved. Did she marry? Did she recover from her illness? This woman intrigues me, maybe without her mother she would have had a different life. Who knows?
    Maria

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  18. I have yet to get to any of the P&P sequels on my list, but I’ve also yet to get to a number of books on my list! It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover will NEVER get through their TBR (To Be Read) pile! What I have made the time to do however is get through the incredible modern adaptation: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that I was turned onto by none other than a post right here on AustenProse.

    Here’s my review: http://bookblogbyb.blogspot.ca/2013/03/the-lizzie-bennet-diaries.html

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  19. I’m already a little wary of the Pride and Prejudice sequels, so this would probably be one I’d need to read after adjusting to the style. I appreciated your comparison between the sequels written before 1995 and those written after, though–that’s an interesting observation. Here’s my March review for the bicentenary challenge; I listened to the Recorded Books audio version of Pride and Prejudice, narrated by Flo Gibson: http://lingeringpianist.blogspot.com/2013/03/p-challenge-recorded-books-audio.html

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  20. This challenge is way too much fun
    #7 The Houseguest.. Adams definitely a favorite. I like how Georgiana is drawn here and how she invites Elizabeth to spend time with her in London giving Elizabeth and Darcy time to come to an understanding
    #8 Mr Darcy’s Forbidden Love..Webb…this was a bit far fetched. I know Elizabeth had few resources but the Elizabeth/Darcy relationship was too contrived.
    #9 Fault or Virtue Karber…fun

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  21. Pingback: The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013 | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

  22. Pingback: Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett – A Review | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

  23. It is a trust universally acknowledged that friendships forged over a love of Jane Austen last forever!

    Pride & Prejudice (1940) with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier: A true classic black & white film bringing together phenomenal acting and creative writing to produce a masterpiece with a unique twist to the novel. Garson’s screen presence embodies the character of Elizabeth Bennett like no other. We find it interesting that the movie chooses to portray the families with less class differentiation, empowering Elizabeth not to hesitate in her criticism of Darcy. Humor and character-specific music written into the story gives this version a lively and emotional tone. One of our favorite scenes is where Lady Catherine and Darcy discuss her exchange with Lizzy. Surprisingly, she gives her consent for him to marry, causing Darcy to overstep his boundaries by hugging and kissing his Aunt. This personalizes Lady Catherine and obviously speaks to her good judgment!

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  24. The Laurence Olivier movie version, I don’t even consider to be P&P it was so hideously wrong, costumes were about 100 years after P&P, the acting was bad, it was just awful!! Gimme the Firth version!

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  25. Seems I’m in agreement with Melissa’s comment preceding mine =) and my review is just that movie version – 1995 P&P movie [click to link] with Colin Firth …

    Full length movie encompasses many more of the book’s scenes,
    endearing it to a wide audience.
    I personally appreciate the experience of participating in Jane Austen’s world
    via this rendition of Pride and Prejudice.
    Colin Firth’s appeal can’t be denied. Definitely adding to the romantic element.
    Wickham is an excellent scoundrel. Rev Collins a hoot.
    Mr Bennet appears more elderly than I imagined him to be, but he does have the rapport
    with Lizzie as expected from reading the book
    Locations are fantastic additions to my imagination, increasing my desire to return to England…
    Costuming attractive.
    On and on. It’s a delight.
    Plan for a relaxed movie night to fully enjoy this journey into Jane Austen’s
    imaginative commentary on her world and it’s reflection on ours.

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