*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Pride and Prejudice, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
What is there not to love about Pride and Prejudice? It is a book about nothing and everything at the same time. I love how it’s mundane and extraordinary. That it’s about relationships, which are the most important things in life.
Jane Austen was only 21 when she first drafted the book we would later know as Pride and Prejudice. And, even at that young age, she was able to capture the nuances of love and friendship and family so beautifully. It took 17 years before it was finally published, but, thankfully for all of us, it was. It’s popularity has only grown in the last few decades with well-done television and film adaptions.
I have read Pride and Prejudice at least four times. As many people have said, each reread of a Jane Austen work brings something new to the surface, some intricacy you missed before. Even now, two hundred years after its publication, Pride and Prejudice remains a timeless masterpiece that can speak through the changes of history right to the heart of the reader.
It is a love story that pairs the unforgettable Elizabeth Bennet with the subtly charming Mr. Darcy, but it’s more than that. It’s a story about finding your way, a story about family and obligations, and a story about sisters. Second only to Mr. Darcy, is Elizabeth’s relationship with her sister Jane. Jane offers a hopefulness, an anticipation of happiness, that would be lacking if the strong-willed Elizabeth and the serious Darcy were left alone on the pages. Add in the angst of three other sisters, the foolishness of a well-meaning mother, and a kind, but distant father, and Austen creates a charming world where idiosyncrasies of her characters cause most of the action. Just like real life.
If your book club hasn’t read and discussed Pride and Prejudice together, maybe it’s time. It’s a heart-warming story, but readers feel strongly about the characters–in other words, it’s a perfect book club pick.
Below, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for Pride and Prejudice, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
When the wealthy Mr. Bingley rents Netherfield Park, Hertfordshire is abuzz with the news. Mrs. Bennet is determined to match one of her five daughters with the unsuspecting Bingley. Her two eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, refuse to marry except for love. Lucky for Mrs. Bennet, both Jane and Bingley seem enraptured with one another. It is Bingley’s serious and prideful friend that strikes Elizabeth, though. On first impression, Mr. Darcy represents everything the strong-willed Elizabeth finds detestable in a man. Elizabeth, too, is far too bold for Darcy’s liking. As they are forced into each other’s company time and again, both try to hold true to their initial feelings of dislike until events outside of their control illuminate their errors in judgement and reveal a secret fondness brewing in both of their hearts.
For the Pride and Prejudice recipe:
Throughout the pages of Pride and Prejudice very few specific foods are mentioned. The characters are often eating together or attending balls, but the foods served are mentioned as simply breakfast or dinner.
However, there are a few specific foods mentioned in the book. If you have searched for food ideas for Pride and Prejudice, you may already know that there are several recipes out there for “white soup,” which was a popular soup at the time and is mentioned by Bingley before he throws the Netherfield ball. Unfortunately, the soup requires some odd and expensive ingredients and is labor intensive. It is still a unique recipe and you can check one version of it out here.
In addition to that, here are some other food ideas from Pride and Prejudice:
- Part One, Chapter 9 – It is mentioned that Charlotte was called home to make mince pies from a visit at Longbourn
- Part One, Chapter 11 – Mr. Bingley says that he will throw a ball as soon as his cook has made white soup
- Part Two, Chapter 16—Lydia and Kitty welcome Elizabeth and Jane back home with a meal at the inn featuring a salad with cucumber and cold meats
- Part Three, Chapter 3—While visiting Pemberly, Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner spend the day with Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst, Mrs. Annesley, and Miss Darcy and lunch on “cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season” including “pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches”
- Part Three, Chapter 12—Darcy and Bingley dine at Longbourn when they return to Netherfield and are served venison, soup, and partridges
I seriously considered creating a charcuterie board with cold meat, cake, and fruit like the ladies enjoyed while at Pemberly. If you are wanting a simple food idea, do this! Buy a pound cake from the grocery store and load up on the rest of the items as well. Easy and so enjoyable!
But, since I always provide a recipe I didn’t feel a charcuterie board was a fair offering to you. After a little research, I discovered that Jane Austen, in her letters to her sister Cassandra, mentioned how much she loved Sponge Cake. There’s even a recipe from a family friend of Austen’s!
A sponge cake exists somewhere between an angel food cake and a pound cake in texture. It is dense with a spring to it–aka sponge cake. Like angel food and pound, it is mostly a bland cake with only a slightly sweet taste and is enhanced by topping with syrupy fruit. I chose peaches since those are mentioned in the Pemberly scene.
The cake is light and pretty much guilt-free. It’s such an interesting cake since it has only four ingredients! I cannot imagine, though, the arm muscles it must have taken to create this cake without an electric mixer! This cake would also be delicious with a peach glaze like the glaze I made for another recipe found here! (A perfect alternative when peaches are out of season.) Or you could use canned peaches and their syrup if peaches aren’t in season or readily available to you.
If you are looking for food ideas for Pride and Prejudice, I think your book club will be happy with Jane Austen’s favorite cake!
Pride and Prejudice Sponge Cake with Peaches
- Electric mixer
- 5 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla or rose water
- 1 cup sugar granulated
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- 3 cups peaches peeled and sliced (6-8 peaches)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on high for 10 minutes until frothy and pale yellow.
- Add in the vanilla and sugar and continue mixing on high for another 5-10 minutes until a spoonful of the batter remains above the batter for a moment when scooped and poured. (in other words slightly thick and stiff)
- Shift the flour and add half to the mix. Mix by hand or on the lowest speed until just incorporated.**
- Repeat with the second half of flour.
- Pour into a buttered and floured 9” cake pan.
- Cook for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool on a cooking rack for about 30 minutes before serving. Use a serrated knife to cut for best results.*
- Peel and slice or chop the peaches.
- Add the lemon juice and stir to coat.
- Add the powdered sugar and coat well.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour for the juices to accumulate. ****
- Top on slices of the cake.
*The whipping creates a light, spongy texture. You don’t want to overmix the flour and lose the air you have created.
***The cake has a distinct egg taste and isn’t too sweet. Serving with a soaking topping adds to the flavor.
****The peaches will brown over time so it’s best to make them, at the most, a few hours ahead of time.
Pride and Prejudice Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Did you know that the novel’s original title was First Impressions? Does that change your impression of what Jane Austen thought the novel was truly about (judgement before knowledge)? Do you think that is a better title or do you think Pride and Prejudice is a better title?
- When it was released, the novel was hailed for being ordinary and probable, yet still entertaining. While books of more subtle plots are normal today, this was revolutionary at the time. Discuss how this is true of the novel, how there are no major incidents or accidents (Mr. Wickham’s seedy character is minor when compared to other novels), yet we are drawn in by the characters and their everyday lives. Do you think this is why the novel has stood the test of time?
- Beyond Jane and Elizabeth’s relationship, the novel features three other Bennet sisters. Discuss the dynamics of sisterhood you saw throughout and how they echo your own experiences with siblings. For example, Kitty desiring to emulate Lydia and have the same privileges. Or, Lydia declaring she belongs at the head since she married before Jane. Etc.
- After Lydia and Wickham are finally married, Mrs. Bennet and even Mr. Bennet are eventually won over and elated. Despite their marriage being a benefit to Jane and Elizabeth, why do you think that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are so easily swayed towards propriety and willing to turn a blind eye to their daughter’s eventual unhappiness? This seemed like the culmination of many character flaws mentioned throughout the book. What did you think?
- When Elizabeth and Darcy meet, they are both incredibly sure of their own character and their judge of character. As the book progresses, their surety crumbles and they begin to see the world differently, namely through the other’s eyes. Discuss the ways Elizabeth and Darcy each progress through this change (i.e. Elizabeth’s refusal helps Darcy realize his pride and Darcy’s letter helps Elizabeth realize her prejudice, etc.).
- Discuss the ways Jane and Elizabeth encourage each other throughout both courtships. How does Elizabeth enlighten Jane on misunderstanding with Mr. Bingley and vice versa? Now, discuss the ways each sister led the other astray at times.
- By the end of the book, Elizabeth and Jane are matched with husbands. Do you think the marriages will last? What makes Jane and Mr. Bingley well-matched? What makes Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy well-suited? Discuss how their differences can become strengths when they work together. How could their similarities cause troubles (Darcy/Elizabeth’s stubbornness and Jane/Bingley’s gentleness, for example).
- What was your favorite scene in the book? How was your favorite character?
- The first draft of this book was written around 1796. What parts of that time period did you most enjoy reading about? What parts would you dread? For example, would month to two-month long stays with relatives or friends be something you’d love or hate?
- Of all of Jane Austen’s novels, which is your favorite? Why? Have you read them all? Which would you like to read?
Have you read any other Jane Austen novels? Which is your favorite? What are some similar books you’ve read and loved?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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