Third Time’s the Charm (A review of Pride and Prejudice years in the making)

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of never having read a book as well known as Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Whether you have read it or not, its fame is obvious from the slew of remakes and parodies on the internet and in literature as a whole.

My first attempt to read the novel was at some point in middle school. At this time, my reading taste was limited to girly YA novels with happy-go-lucky endings and whatever my teen librarian recommended we read each month for book club. (Which by the way, I was the only female member of, and then eventually the only member of at all.) So P & P seemed like something I would read, if I had the brain for it.

I got through a few pages and then set it down, thinking to myself how impossibly boring and abstruse the text was. “People read this, how?” was all I could think.

The second time was less than a year ago. I really wanted to try it, and like it, so yet again I sat and attempted to beat my middle school Pride and Prejudice record. Nada. I felt like giving up on it forever. Until I started my current literature course.

A bad literature teacher or professor can make every book seem like generic brand cereal. A good one, however, can make the most banal of details an hour long discussion topic into which the class is fervently engaged. Luckily, I have a great professor. So great, in fact, that I’ve declared myself a literature major.

This professor happened to assign us Pride and Prejudice as our third novel in the semester. My first thoughts were a mix of how the devil was now coming back (You again!?!) and how I would finally finish this novel. I had to. It was for an assignment.

I was so happy upon finishing it I even took it right to Twitter at that moment.

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OK, enough about me and my snail book-finishing pace. Let’s hear what I actually thought of Pride and Prejudice.

Part of what increased my appreciation for this classic novel was context. Having studied it for a literature course, we read novels chronologically, in the order they were published. So prior to reading Austen’s novel, we read The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster. We discussed how this novel may have been one of the reasons for the soon-to-come women’s suffrage movement, after having been a bestseller for 50 years. (Can you imagine that in modern times? When was the last time a book was a bestseller for 50 years!?) Pride and Prejudice tells a similar story, yes, but with a dramatically different ending that preaches a different, even more empowering message.

Friends, Pride and Prejudice is not the fluffy, junky romance novel my previous, young self thought it was. Pride and Prejudice is the story of a woman who thinks for herself and gets what she wants as a result. Compare Elizabeth to her sisters and their different marriages and you’ll discover marriages based purely on “but darling, he’s rich! Marry him for money!”, marriages based on desire, and marriages based on both, and the various outcomes for them. The happiest marriages were the ones based on more than just someone’s wealth; the ones based on what you actually think and feel for each other.  For the time period, this novel, and especially The Coquette, were incredibly revolutionary.

So for me, I read Pride and Prejudice not for the plot itself, but for the message, for what the novel accomplished. Pride and Prejudice also represents the introduction of the third person narrator (a huge invention!) into literature, rather than using the epistolary form. (Gosh, say Pride and Prejudice ten times fast. Could I say that phrase any more times during this post?!)

And if Pride and Prejudice (!) is still bland for you, you can always check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, whose movie trailer just debuted this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAChymiQC-o

So, now that I have officially read Pride and Prejudice, we can have discussions about it! Have you read it? What did you think? Join me in the comments below!

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Testing “The Awesome Author Recommender” Tool

I was scrolling through Reddit this morning and discovered a neat little link called “The Awesome Author Recommender.” Similar to sites like WhatShouldIReadNext, it is a site that recommends you authors based on previous ones you have read. The site claims to use real people, not a computer formula, to recommend an author to you.

Excited to try it out, I first put in Marissa Meyer, the author of one of my favorite YA series, The Lunar Chronicles.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Well, I suppose Marissa Meyer isn’t the most widely read of authors. For the heck of it, I also tried Ernest Cline, whose books are certainly selling quite a bit at the moment.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Oh well, we’ll keep trying.

How about a YA romance novelist who has been writing and publishing a multitude of books for years now?

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I do like that the site at least gives me a brief description of the author, even if it can’t make any recommendations to me.

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Hold that thought; no recommendations or even a description of J.K Rowling? Perhaps I’m pushing this a little far, but isn’t she British? This is a British website. Yikes.

Figuring I was being a tad unfair by choosing the previous authors, I tried Jane Austen, in honor of my current read, Pride and Prejudice. Surely something will come up.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Oh dear. That’s a problem.

In a desperate attempt to get the website to make any recommendation to me, I just started searching random authors. Classic ones, modern ones, anything. I also tried ones it automatically began to suggest to me as I typed.

Thankfully, I did get some recommendations, including for Karen Thompson Walker, one of my favorite authors, who has only written one book. Why she is in there but not Jane Austen, I am not entirely sure. Nevertheless, I am certainly intrigued by the site’s sole recommendation to me.

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Lauren Oliver. I clicked “View Books”, and this is what it gave me:

Screenshot of LoveReading's Lauren Oliver page.

Screenshot of LoveReading’s Lauren Oliver page.

Below this was more of her featured books, as well as other books by her, which can be sorted by paperback, hardcover and audiobook.

For fun, I tried out the “compare prices” tool that the site offers on her book, Rooms.

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Gotta love loading symbols.

After several minutes of waiting, I decided to try a different book to compare prices with.

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5 minutes later, I was still looking at this picture.

Oh, boy. I really, really wanted to say something good about this site. For the sake of this experiment, I kept the tabs loading, and even tried them in other internet browsers. Nada.

As other reddit users are saying, the idea of this tool is great. It is unique and pretty close to the experience you’d get asking a librarian for recommendations, yet with a wider scope. Ideally, at least. But there are far too many holes in the site’s author database, and too little recommendations given when you even find an author that is in the database. (For example, I was given just one recommendation for Karen Thompson Walker.) Perhaps in a few months, or however long it takes to add more authors to the database, this will be a fun and worthwhile tool for readers. But at this moment in time, I just don’t think it is ready.

Try out the site for yourself and let me know what you think and/or find! If it were more complete, would it be a useful tool to you? Comment below!  http://authormachine.lovereading.co.uk

P.S If you saw my tweet on twitter, I redid my Tumblr page and am now posting on it again! Hooray! Give it a follow for some cute bookspiration!