i had a conversation mostly with elizabeth on a comment thread for a non-review by david. :)
i'm stealing parts of what i wrote there and pasting it here because it is difficult to review perennial favourites, and i often find that in discussing them with others i am able to get at what i really think about a book.
i have convinced many [straight] men to read and appreciate austen so that women would sleep with them, always citing salinger as the expert in the matter because of uncle wiggily in connecticut. it usually works out in both respects: most have found they truly enjoyed austen in addition to her fringe benefits.
this book, if i'm serious for a moment, never fails to discomfit me. every time i read this book, i wait for the netherfield ball with trepidation; every time i will cringe away from the odious mr. collins; every time i am as hotly mortified as elizabeth. i also almost always squeak at the end. i was angry at austen for a while because i worried she'd done damage to our culture, that people have only taken to the wish-fulfillment aspect of her happy endings and not so much the wit and understanding that makes them great. i loved this book more when i was fifteen, and when i was twenty-five than i do now; it has been surpassed by persuasion in my heart.
some people don't like it, and of course, it's always surprising when people you like just don't like books you do but in most cases, i think it's okay to just shake our fists at them and move on. :) (i say this because i hate many popular books that lots of other people like. :)