An old favourite

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Sometimes, a book is so familiar, so well loved, that reading it is an instant source of comfort. For me, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is most definitely that book.

I first read it in my early teens, and it was probably my first introduction to anything written before the 20th Century and opened my eyes to a very different world, especially in terms of the role of women at the time. The main characters spoke to me so clearly, I felt that I knew each of them personally.

Sometimes people ask me how I can read a book so many times, and one of the reasons I do is that every single time I pick up on something different, some more subtle meaning. This time it was an awareness of just how rude Colonel Fitzwilliam is in mentioning to Elizabeth that he must marry for money – almost Wickham-esque actually in his motives. I’d previously always thought him quite pleasant but in reality perhaps he shows us that at least Darcy is willing to overlook everything for his feelings – unlike Fitzwilliam who appears on the surface to be more amiable.

My favourite part of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is always Elizabeth’s visit to Mr and Mrs Collins in Kent, although I often find it hard to define why. Perhaps it is the combination of the ridiculous Mr Collins and haughty Lady Catherine, who are just so enjoyable to read about, mixed with Darcy’s clear struggle to repress his feelings for Elizabeth and her absolute shock when he reveals them.

As always, my final thoughts on this book are that it is such a fantastic story, so well told, that I refuse to see why anyone wouldn’t love it as much as I do.

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‘The Lowland’ Jhumpa Lahiri

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This novel, shortlisted for The Baileys Prize, tells the story of Subhash and Udayan, brothers who grow up in Calcutta, next to the lowland of the title.

What begins as a story of closeness and family soon becomes one of distance, ¬†both literal and emotional. The death of Udayan affects four generations of the family, pushing them apart. Lahiri’s detached prose style perfectly reflects this, taking us on a journey that spans thousands of miles, over 50 years and many examples of fractured relationships.

Understated, but containing a complexity of emotion, it is an interesting read, although at times I did feel that it lacked pace.