We’ve all heard “don’t judge a book by its cover.” We all do it anyway. We can’t help it–the cover is after all the face of the book! If the cover looks boring or unprofessional, we figure it stands to reason that what lies inside is, also. Even if such an assumption can be quite unfair.
Well, I committed an even worse crime, sad to say. I judged a book by its movie.
(And by its author’s other books, but mostly by its movie.)
The book in question? Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
I wasn’t allowed to read Austen growing up, but when I was in my teens my mom handed me her favorite, Emma to read. I was excited, but as I read on–I mean, I saw the literary merit, but I didn’t L-O-V-E it like all other girls I’d ever heard of, which vastly disappointed me.
Years later I was stuck in a hotel with my sisters while we waited for a conference to start, and we were bored, so a friend lent us several DVDs, among them the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. Now, I’d heard that this was not the version and that it was vastly inferior to both the book and the miniseries, but I found it so ridiculous I decided it sealed the verdict on Austen for me.
I, officially, was not a Jane Austen fan.
I know. I’m ashamed of myself.
I found a beautiful hardcover copy of the book at a thrift store and bought it, ’cause, you know, classic. I started reading it a couple months ago because I have trouble making decisions and just decided to go across my bookshelf left to right, top to bottom, and it was fourth from the left on the very top shelf.
And I liked it. I really did.
While Mr. Darcy still isn’t and probably never will be my fictional true love (that honor belongs to Matthew Crawley), I get him now. I relate with Elizabeth. I enjoyed the dialogue and the writing and the plot. Indeed, I found it quite a superior work of fiction.
The lesson? Well it’s one I should already have known–DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS MOVIE. I knew better, and yet I still fell into the trap. The truth is, while there are some excellent book-to-film adaptations out there, in general the book will always be better because books and movies are just entirely different creatures. A book explores the psyches of the characters in a way a movie simply never can do. A movie can imply, it can suggest, it can communicate powerfully–but it can never be the same story as a book.
And that, my friends, is a truth universally acknowledged.