I read P&P for the first time earlier this year on the recommendation of a coworker and enjoyed it very much. Austen wrote before George Eliot and Dickens and one of the things I noticed was the omission of any nods to the lower class which stood out starkly to the banners of social justice carried by the aforesaid authors (as well as others of their period). I did very much enjoy the story and Austen's writing style and I found myself comparing Austen to Eliot in this regard. I consider Eliot the most masterful female writer of prose in the English language, but Austen is certainly Eliot's master when it comes to humor. I absolutely LOVED the contentious discussions between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet!
Also, though Austen presented a bit of a feminist attitude she moderates it and voices it with an equanimity seldom seen in current day feminist writers such as Jane Smiley. Smiley's book A Thousand Acres presented literally EVERY man in the story as a villain of one kind or another or lacking in moral principles. (Can You say "manipulation" ? I bet you can!) I would imagine that even a woman reading Smiley sooner or later has to stop and say, "Wait a minute, even a clock that's broke is right twice a day." A much better presentation of a feminist viewpoint in my opinion was Amy Tan's Joy Luck CLub which was more believable given the more ubiquitous sexist attitudes prevalent in the Chinese culture towards girls. Austen plays it fair right down the line and I admire her for this.
GREAT BOOK !!! (Even if Mark Twain didn't think so *LOL*)
"To me his prose is unreadable -- like Jane Austen's. No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."
- Mark Twain (Letter to W. D. Howells, 18 January 1909)
“I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a book mark and flew across the room.”
― Steven Wright