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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 13:31 GMT
Women listeners back Austen novel
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet
Many TV adaptations of Pride and Prejudice have been made
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been voted by BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour listeners as the book that has most changed the way women see themselves.

The book was chosen by a live studio audience from a list of five finalists chosen by thousands of listeners. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Women's Room (Marilyn French) and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale were the top five.

Presenter Jenni Murray said Austen's book was "every woman's dream".

If ever we wished to identify with a character, it must be Lizzie
Monica Ali

Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her relationship with Mr Darcy, and their slow, comic courtship.

The final decision brings an end to the Women's Watershed Fiction competition which has been running since September.

Listeners and high profile women including Cherie Booth, politician Glenys Kinnock and TV presenter June Sarpong have been championing their chosen novel on air.

Almost 14,000 listeners voted for their favourite books.

Ms Booth chose The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, Ms Kinnock chose Love of Worker Bees by Alexandra Kollontai while Sarpong chose Orange Laughter by Leone Ross.

Brick Lane author and champion of Pride and Prejudice Monica Ali said: "If ever we wished to identify with a character, it must be Lizzie.

"She's quick witted, lively, self assured and yet so infallibly human and she takes us on that most important journey - the path to self knowledge".

Soon after the book was published in 1813 Jane Austen wrote about Elizabeth Bennet: "I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know".

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