Darcy at 200: the novelist Penelope Lively is entirely resistant to his charms...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2013

"Pride and Prejudice" has been corrupted for me by film and TV adaptations. I can’t revisit it now without the faces of various actors floating above the text. I must once have read it untarnished, as it were, and I wish I could return to that original reading and recover my responses then. It isn’t actually my favourite Austen, which is "Sense and Sensibility": those sisters are more compelling, to my mind. As for Darcy, I am entirely resistant to his charms, especially when disguised as Colin Firth. If he intrigues at all, then it is because of the vacillations of the Elizabeth/Darcy relationship, which is so elegantly plotted. I think the novel turns on that subtly prolonged suspense, and my preferred characters are the wonderfully obnoxious Mr Collins, and poor Mrs Bennet. Where Darcy is concerned, I share Elizabeth’s initial indifference. I suppose his subsequent actions do redeem him somewhat, but he never appeals. What I take from the novel is ingenious narrative, vibrant minor players and the beautiful nuances of the authorial voice.

For other views on Mr Darcy, read Allison Pearson on The Immovable Mr Darcy, John Carey on The damning first proposal, Adam Foulds on Jane Austen's alpha male, Helen Simpson's Not a bad boy, P.D.James's The Master of Pemberley and Ali Smith on The Gift of Astringency.

Penelope Lively has written nearly 50 books, including ”How it all began” and the Booker winner “Moon Tiger”

Picture Ronald Grant