Monday, November 15, 2010
First of all, the book is physically beautiful. An e-book is all well and good in its place, but this is not the place. This is a large, heavy book with paper that affords noticeable tactile pleasure. There are wonderful illustrations, from the familiar watercolor of Jane painted by her sister Cassandra, to a wonderful drawing “A Gentleman’s Art Gallery” that shows what a room at Pemberley might have looked like, to a group of illustrations done for the book in 1894, including a priceless one in which the unbearable Mr. Collins is recoiling at the thought of--horrors!--reading a novel. One of my favorites is the poster from the movie version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, that looks like the cover of a paperback bodice-ripper.
The footnotes, rather than getting in the way, are like having a knowledgeable companion on the sofa next to you, pointing out all the good bits. I had the pleasure of hearing Patricia Spacks talk about the book, and her warm voice is exactly what I hear as I read about various kinds of coaches the characters rode in, the relative levels of social standing of the characters, or what quadrille is. A chatty aside may dish about how Mr. Collins looks at women and furniture alike as objects awaiting his approval or disapproval.
Maybe a gift for the Austen fan in your life?