"Pride and Prejudice" Book Discussion and Peach Cupcake Recipe
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” —such is the philosophy of Mrs. Bennett, mother to five daughters, including the opinionated, fond-of-walking Elizabeth Bennett, Lizzie to her sisters.
When a wealthy, attractive young man by the name of Mr. Bingley comes to stay at the most elegant home in town along with his sisters and his best friend, the even wealthier but far more shy and aloof Mr. Darcy, all the available women in town seek his acquaintance in the hopes of a fine marriage. His attentions seem to be entirely consumed by the town beauty and Lizzie’s elder sister, Jane. But Jane is shy with her affection, and it might therefore go unseen.
Darcy meanwhile appears judgmental and superior, though financially he is of the highest upper class society, and before long, most have come to despise his character, especially Lizzie. However, her attentions will soon focused elsewhere: on a socially awkward cousin set to inherit the Bennett house, and desirous of marrying one of the daughters, though none can tolerate his odd character. And with the militia in town, a young, attractive man by the name of Mr. Wickham will charm Lizzie and the entire Bennett household, though none could have guessed the dark secret he hides. With an exhaustingly dramatic mother and two younger sisters, Lizzie will find her life filled with much drama, and though she considers herself a wise judge of character, many of them will prove to her how she can often allow her own pride to get in the way of seeing truths right before her.
Perfect for fans of
- Jane Austen
- Regency fiction
- Romantic fiction
- Themes of pride/hubris, a good family name, money and class systems
Mr. Darcy had 10,000 pounds a year, which is roughly $800,000 in America now. Mr. Bennet’s income was 2,000, which is about $160,000 for five daughters. Elizabeth, when she married, would receive 40-50 pounds annually, or $3,200 to $4,000 a year. Wickham’s inheritance from the senior Mr. Darcy (that he used up in about 3 years) was 1,000 pounds, or $80,000. Georgiana’s inheritance was 30,000 pounds, or $2.4 million. How does knowing these figures help you better understand the actions of these characters? Also, Darcy’s commission to Wickham was 1,000 pounds or $80,000 a year.
Everyone’s opinion was that Darcy was “the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world.” Darcy said he did not have “the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily” with those whom he’d never met before. Would you say he was shy, even socially awkward, and perhaps this came across as pride?
Was there much mixing of the classes during that time period, and would this have accounted for some of the vast differences in the behaviors of each social class, for example, the Bennetts versus the Darcys and Bingleys?
Charlotte thought that, because Darcy had such a fine family, fortune, everything in his favor, he should think highly of himself, and had a right to be proud. Would Elizabeth have agreed, if he had not offended her pride?
People have a tendency to normalize what they live with—how did this blind Lizzie to the social awkwardness of her family, especially in comparison with the behavior of high society? How did Lizzie push against societal norms? How was Charlotte more grounded in reality?
Charlotte believed “It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” How did this foreshadow her relationship with Mr. Collins? What defects of his did she choose to ignore, and what places of escape or hobbies did she have to send him away to?
Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain to Mrs. Bennett the nature of an entail. Why couldn’t she grasp it? What does it mean?
In what ways was Mr. Collins “as absurd as [Mr. Bennett] had hoped” such as his hubris, or unfounded pride? Why did Elizabeth refuse him, even though, as he stated “It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable...it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made to you”? Why didn’t Charlotte refuse him?
What things did Darcy and Bingley’s sister have in common? Why did she try to discolor his perception of Lizzie?
Wickham believes that “almost all [Darcy’s] actions may be traced to pride.” Was he correct? Are Wickham’s as well, or is it more of entitlement?
Lady de Bourgh considers the Bennett girls’ upbringing without a governess as being neglected. Lizzie says that “Such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means.” If Kitty and Lydia are “silly and ignorant like other girls” why did their father not hire a tutor or a governess or do something to educate them?
Elizabeth noticed that at Rosings that Darcy had towards her an “earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted whether there was much admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing but absence of mind.” How did she miss his attraction toward her completely or explain it away? What reasons did she give to reject his proposal?
What was Wickham’s “real character” and “vicious propensities”, especially regarding Georgiana and revenge on Darcy?
Neither Darcy nor Elizabeth exposed Wickham to their society when they had opportunities. How important was a good family name, and how might exposure have socially disgraced and Darcy’s family?
How did Lydia’s restless foolishness contribute to her situation? Why did her father allow her to go with Colonel and Mrs. Forster?
Why did Darcy play the role he did at Lydia’s wedding? If Darcy truly was completely proud, he could have sought revenge on Lizzie for rejecting him, but instead, how did real love come into play?
What’s your favorite Darcy moment, or the one when you first began to see him in a new light?
On Elizabeth Bennett’s second visit inside Pemberley, at Darcy’s request, and when she first met Georgiana while with her aunt and uncle, there were “beautiful pyramids of peaches, nectarines, and grapes.” Also a platter of cakes was brought out, among other savory foods. Since this was part of such an auspicious, pivotal turning point in how Elizabeth saw Darcy, I decided to commemorate it with a
Peach Cupcake with Peach Frosting.
Peach Cupcakes with Peach Frosting
For the cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
- 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups plus 4 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup ripe peaches, peeled and diced small
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 tbsp ripe, peeled peach puree, (from about 2-3 large, 3-4 small peaches) directions below
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 325° F. In a small bowl, toss the cup of diced peaches with the four tablespoons of flour until well coated, then set the bowl aside. In a stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat one softened stick of butter with the granulated sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Drop the mixer speed to low, add the sour cream and milk just until fully mixed in (stopping the mixer to scrape the insides of the bowl if needed). Slowly add one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl, followed by the vanilla extract. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and if you see them sticking to the side of the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in the last of the dry ingredients, and increase the speed to medium. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
- Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour-coated peaches and using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the batter, just until they look evenly distributed, stirring as little as possible. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each tin two-thirds full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely (at least 10-15 minutes) on a wire rack or cutting board before frosting them. Makes about 14-16 cupcakes.
- For the frosting, begin by peeling and dicing about 3-4 small or 2-3 large peaches. Drop the chunks into a food processor blender and puree them in a food processor or blender until they are almost completely liquid in consistency. Strain through a sifter over a bowl, using a rubber spatula to push the peach puree through. Then measure out 4 tablespoons (any leftovers would be great for a smoothie or over vanilla ice cream).
- In the bowl of a clean stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip one stick of softened butter on medium-high speed for one minute. Then drop the speed to low and add one cup of powdered sugar, followed by half of the peach puree and the vanilla extract. Slowly add the remaining two cups of powdered sugar, alternating with the peach puree, so that you add powdered sugar, then puree, more sugar, more puree, then the last of the powdered sugar. When there is no loose powder left, increase the speed to medium-high for half a minute, until frosting looks thick and whipped. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with sliced peaches, if desired.
Peach Cupcakes with Peach Frosting
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Other books by Jane Austen include (the nearest in likeness to this one) about two sisters seeking marriage after the loss of family fortune and the dynamic of being at the mercy of a brother for their inheritance. Sense and Sensibility also is very similar, about a young woman who believes she has great discernment and wishes to be a matchmaker for all in her county, though she misjudges for herself and others. Other great works of Austen’s are Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Lady Susan, Love and Friendship, The Watsons, Sanditon, and Mansfield Park. Emma
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is also considered slightly similar to this one, about love and misjudged characters, though it is a bit more tragic and dark in tone. It is more of a Gothic novel, with hints of mystery, but it also one of the greatest classics of all time, with a misjudged character whom readers adore, much like Mr. Darcy, named Mr. Rochester.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster is another classic novel about a girl finding who she is and her place between London and Italian society, especially in terms of the people around her and the roles they play.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler is about an eclectic group of book clubbers who meet together to read through the works of Jane Austen, some in the midst of tragic times in their life, some who begin romantic entanglements with each other, and all peppered with humor and drama.
Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence is a researched biography about the author with a new twist, the author believes that Jane had a tragic romantic relationship with a man named Tom Lefroy, whom she loved but was unable to marry, and that this relationship colored many of her works. This book was also made into a film.
Spin offs of Pride and Prejudice include The Phantom of Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice Mystery #1), An Assembly Such as This (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #1), Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy:Two Shall Become One (The Darcy Saga #1), The Last Man in the World, Mr. Darcy’s Diary (Jane Austen Heroes #1), The Other Mr. Darcy, A Pemberley Medley, Lydia Bennet’s Story, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, The Darcys & the Bingleys: A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters (Pride and Prejudice Continues #1).
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love…”
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinions of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
“It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”
“Every savage can dance.”
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book!—When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
“My good opinion once lost is lost forever.”
“In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquility…”
“I told you...that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. I have no pleasure in talking to undutiful children. —Not that I have much pleasure indeed from talking to any body. People who suffer as I do from nervous complaints can have no great inclination for talking. Nobody can tell what I suffer!—But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”
“Without ever thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object.”
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.”
“I will endeavor to banish every painful thought, and think only of what will make me happy…”
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
“With three younger sister grown up, your ladyship can hardly expect me to own to it [her age].”
“She cannot expect to excel if she does not practice a great deal...no excellence in music is to be acquired, without constant practice.”
“I certainly have not the talent, which some people posses, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.”
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
“From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others...I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.”
“I should infinitely prefer a book.”
“He [Mr. Bennett] was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments.”
“...she found what has sometimes been found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch