Showing posts with label Netgalley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Netgalley. Show all posts

Monday, 1 March 2021

Jane Austen's Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd by Zoe Wheddon - My Review

Happy St David’s Day to you all! St David is the patron saint of Wales, in case you don’t know. Traditionally the children would dress up in traditional Welsh costume, or otherwise wear Welsh rugby shirts. Most schools would hold an ‘Eisteddfod’ and the children would sing, dance, and compete in the arts such as singing, painting/collage, and most importantly, poetry, as the author of the winning poem gets crowned bard. The youngest school children in Wales are now back in school so I am pleased to think that at least there will be children dressing up today on our route back to normality!

Blog Tour: Jane Austen's Best Friend by Zoe Wheddon
Today, I’m bringing you my review of a book about an important person in Jane Austen’s life. Jane Austen's Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd by Zoe Wheddon looks at the life and influence of Martha Lloyd on Jane. Let’s look at the blurb and then we’ll move on to what I thought of the book.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Retold by Gemma Barder - My Review

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Retold by Gemma Barder
What do you do when you have a review backlog and a TBR list that would fill a room if it was all physical copies? You go on Netgalley to have a nose, and stumble across something you want to read, d’oh! In my defence though, it was a quick read, which at least helped me in my quest to get back on track with my annual reading challenge. The book that I’m bringing you a review of today is Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, but retold for a younger audience by Gemma Barder.

Book Description – from Amazon

A beautiful and accessible children's book adaptation of Austen's famous story, Pride and Prejudice, featuring contemporary black and white illustrations and a free Audiobook accessible via QR code for an alternative, entertaining and engaging listening experience. 

Mrs Bennet is desperate to find rich husbands for her daughters, so the arrival of a charming new neighbour is welcome indeed. Sadly, the friend he brings with him is not. Mr Darcy seems to have even more pride than money. Nobody likes him least of all Elizabeth Bennet. But not everyone is who they seem...

This adaptation is part of The Complete Jane Austen Children's Collection (Easy Classics), featuring the following 8 books: Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Love and Friendship and a personal My Story Journal (available to buy as a box set). These stunning books are a perfect gift and introduction to classical literature for children aged seven and up. 

Sweet Cherry Easy Classics carefully adapt classic literature into accessible stories for children, with the aim of introducing these timeless tales to a new generation.

Book Description – from the back of the book

Mrs Bennet is desperate to find rich husbands for her daughters, so the arrival of a charming new neighbour is welcome indeed. Sadly the friend he brings with him is not. Mr Darcy seems to have even more pride than money. Nobody likes him – least of all Elizabeth Bennet. But not everyone is who they seem and love can change everything. 

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Retold by Gemma BarderMy Review of Pride & Prejudice, retold by Gemma Barder

This version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice has been rewritten for a younger audience. As it’s a children’s version, one of the important jobs the author has had to do is explain some of the things that might not make sense to a modern child. I thought the author here did a great job of explaining things within the flow of the story. Although this is a simplified version, all the important plot points are covered. Having said that, there were some things that I felt were misrepresented – some facts relating to Wickham, and it being said that Elizabeth had overheard the ‘tolerable’ insult and made sure Mr Darcy knew that she had heard. This just didn’t happen, and if it had the relationship dynamic would have been quite different and he wouldn’t have been thinking of her regard so smugly later on! In the main though, the plot is covered well and explained clearly. 

The book has quite a few illustrations, which are very nice, although I would have loved to have seen them in colour. I read this on kindle, but I believe the illustrations are also black and white in the printed copy.

This book is part of a set of books retelling Austen’s stories - the six main novels plus Love and Freindship (sic) and another book - I'm not entirely sure what this one is, but it's called My Story Journal so presumably it's one for the child to write in.

The question is whether to buy or not to buy. Well, I am not entirely sold on the concept of classics being rewritten for children. The first time I read Pride & Prejudice as a teen I didn’t know anything about the story, and was able to discover it fresh. I think much of the enjoyment in Austen comes from her use of language rather than her plots – she truly was a mistress at turning a phrase – and while there are echoes of some of her quotes in this book, it’s a simplified version and doesn’t use such sophisticated language. 

My concern is whether a child reading a book such as this would be dissuaded from picking up the original, feeling that it’s a book they’d read already. Reading the plot of an Austen story is by no means reading Austen! However, if you like buying classics rewritten for children, I would say that this is a good rewrite – it has all the main plot points and most of the facts clearly described and is quite a good read in its own right. It also has a very cute cover so if I bought it for a child I'd be inclined to get the hard copy. This would be a good addition to the bookshelves of a child who reads classic rewrites and I'd rate it as a 4 star read.

*I received this book from Netgalley UK for my honest review

Author Bio

Gemma Barder is a children's author with 15 years experience of writing fun, exciting and engaging books for children. She started her publishing career in children's magazines, before moving on to editing books and part-works. She soon found her happy place as a freelance writer - tapping away at her laptop in her slippers at her home in Leicestershire, with her husband and two daughters close at hand, and with a cup of Earl Grey.

Collection of Jane Austen Stories, retold by Gemma Barder
Buy Links

Pride & Prejudice adapted by Gemma Barder is available to buy now in Paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Ms Barder has also retold Austen’s other novels and you can get the whole collection in a paperback boxed set. 

Pride & Prejudice - Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA (looks like paperback is not released yet in Canada) • Add to Goodreads shelf

Boxed Set of Paperbacks - Amazon US • Amazon UKAmazon CA (Unfortunately I couldn’t find the set on Amazon CA – hopefully it will be on there at some point)

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What do you think about the idea of rewriting classics for children? On the one hand, might it  make them feel less intimidating to a reader and make readers more likely to try them? Or would it put readers off the full versions because they feel they've read them, and will they miss out on all the magic of them? I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments. 

Note about comments: Unfortunately I’ve had some spam comments lately, so have turned on comment moderation, which means that your comment won’t appear straight away. If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

Book Cover: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas - Stephanie Barron
This is the latest in the series by Stephanie Barron featuring our beloved authoress, Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth, stumbling across and solving murders. I am a little late to the party on this series, considering this is the first one I’ve read, and it’s number 12 in the series! There are some references to the previous books, but this book is pretty much stand-alone. It is set in the year 1814, so Jane is already a published authoress, with 'Sense & Sensibility', 'Pride & Prejudice' and 'Mansfield Park' all in print, and she is working on 'Emma'.

In this story, Jane, her mother and sister Cassandra are due to stay with Jane’s brother, James Austen, and his family, from just before Christmas right through to Twelfth Night. James took over the living as the Rector of Steventon at his father’s retirement to Bath, so Jane would be staying for Christmas at her childhood home. But instead of opening to a cosy family scene we instead join the ladies en route to Steventon; cold, uncomfortable and tired from their journey and weighed down with the sad certainty that although it is cold and snowing James is too parsimonious to hire a covered carriage for them, and they’ll have to complete the journey in an open carriage with snow driving into their faces and spoiling their bonnets.  Unfortunately, they meet a carriage coming the other way and end up colliding, in an accident which leaves the Austens’ conveyance undriveable. The occupant of the other carriage gets out to offer assistance, and though he is obviously in a hurry, being a gentleman he can’t just abandon the ladies, so he offers them the use of his carriage while he takes one of the horses and rides to his destination – The Vyne, whose occupants, the Chutes, have long been known to Jane.

When the ladies arrive at the Steventon Rectory we are treated to a wonderful scene with James’ wife, the deeply tiresome and self-absorbed Mary. I don’t know how closely Mary in this story reflects the real Mary Austen, but if this is a faithful representation then she must have been a strong contender for the model for Mary Musgrove from Persuasion (Anne’s egocentric hypochondriac sister):
“But you did not consider of me, I suppose, as you dawdled along the lanes. I am the very last creature alive, however, to complain of ill-usage at the hands of those I love.”
As you can imagine, the soaked and freezing Jane is highly sympathetic to ‘poor’ Mary:
‘But it was ever thus, in James’s household: the invited guests must immediately minister to the desperate heroine who commanded the scene, and no concerns but hers were broached. I might happily have strangled Mary many years since, so poor a patience do I possess for nerves; and therefore cannot trust myself to cross her doorstep unattended.’
Just when the Austen ladies are beginning to feel that they cannot face spending a full fortnight with the James Austens and need to make their excuses to leave some days early they are saved by a note from Eliza Chute from The Vyne, inviting them all to come and stay for a few days. The invitation is accepted, and the entire party of Austens travel to The Vyne the next day. There are others at the house party; aside from the hosts, the Chutes, and their household, there are Lady Gambier and her niece and nephew, and the gentleman who lent the Austen ladies his carriage, a Mr Raphael West. Mr West is at The Vyne to take some sketches of William Chute for a portrait. An unexpected visitor also arrives, Lieutenant Gage, who has come to confer with Chute in his government capacity.

The next day the Lieutenant leaves for London, but a short while later his horse returns, riderless. A search party sets out and finds the Lieutenant’s body, with a broken neck, presumably thrown from his horse. But Jane’s history of mystery leads her to try and verify this idea – she walks out to the scene where the body was discovered, and finds Mr West there, drawing a scene he is deducing from handprints and other marks in the snow:
‘Our eyes met soberly. “You are sketching a case for murder,” I said. “I thought it my duty,” he replied. “The evidence, you see, is melting.”
And so begins a mystery that will take the twelve days of Christmas to solve. There were some lovely touches in this book. It’s written from Jane Austen’s point of view and I felt the author did a good job of capturing her voice, and dry humour. I also really liked to see the family relationships between the Austens, such as the sweet touch of Jane and her sister delivering a new doll’s outfit to their niece on each of the twelve days, and the little humdrum details added like the former dresses used for the fabric of each doll outfit. The tone was also good, although there was the odd word here or there which I think were American English so seemed a little odd coming from Jane’s pen, but from the point of view of seeing Jane Austen as a character and following her around for twelve days I really enjoyed the book.

For me, the mystery side of the book was less successful, it was pretty slow to get going, and there were leaps and jumps in Jane’s deduction that I couldn’t always see the rationale for, unless it’s just that she understands the human mind better than the average person:
‘The novelist’s perception of motive and character is equally suited to the penetration of human deceit.’
I felt the pace of the novel was a little imbalanced too, as the beginning was slow, but then the ending seemed rushed in comparison. The ending was a little disappointing too, though I suppose it was realistic, but I felt it could have been more satisfying.

However, on the whole I really enjoyed this book. The humorous vein provided by Jane’s thoughts and comments was delightful, and I liked spending time with Jane and her family. There were lots of details weaved into the text in relation to everyday things such as the food served which helped bring the story to life. One of my favourite things about reading historical fiction is that it’s an engaging way to learn some history, and there were some interesting snippets in relation to life in the navy, and also references to things happening in the wider world, such as the situation with Bonaparte. I would certainly read other books in this series!

4 star read

* My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this book for my honest review.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Love Bites by Ophelia London

Book Cover - Love Bites by Ophelia London
Sharona Blaire is an auditor who is travelling from Miami to Sydney on business. Wandering into first class by mistake, Sharona compounds her errors by accidentally tipping a whole Bloody Mary over one of the first class passengers as she escorted back to economy class.  Later that evening Sharona goes to the hotel bar to relax. Deciding that the night is a bust she turns around to walk away, and manages to spill her drink over a gorgeous stranger – the same gorgeous stranger – for the second time that day. This breaks the ice and they start to talk, finding they have a real connection.

Although Sharona has never been a one night stand kind of girl she feels she could do with a confidence boost. She broke off her relationship with her fiancé (also her boss) about 6 months ago. He didn’t respect her then, and he doesn’t respect her now, meaning her work life is under pressure too. She isn’t looking forward to the next day’s work either, and she’s longing for a chance to escape reality, just for a little while, but will she go through with it?
"Something about being halfway around the world made her feel... unencumbered. Or maybe it was the effects of her Long Island iced tea combined with his dreamy, ocean-blue eyes."
Although Jeff is not somebody who makes a habit of having no strings attached nights of passion the American hottie he has just met who is insisting on no names or personal details being exchanged is hard to resist as the attraction between them is pretty intense. Conservation scientist Jeff is also fairly new on the singles scene – his marriage broke down a while ago after his wife betrayed his trust to sell some of his intellectual property and he hasn’t been interested in putting himself out there until the temptation of tonight. Although Jeff loves his job, he’s dreading tomorrow, as he’ll have the distraction of having to deal with an auditor...

This was a very interesting setting for a romance – a research boat looking at the travel and mating habits of the great white shark. There is a level of resentment and distrust between the main characters due to how the previous night ended and the baggage from their respective exes.

Sharona seemed very nice, although why she continued to work with her foul ex was a mystery, an auditing job isn’t that hard to come by! So often in romances the protagonists have really glamorous jobs and I thought it made a nice change to have a more prosaic profession. Jeff was a super hot, intelligent conservationist with a good sense of humour, described as having a grin that was 'an interesting cross between Han Solo and Thor'. What’s not to like?!

Since this is a novella there wasn’t much time for the story to build and their relationship developed between them very quickly, but given the nature of the setting, a one day boat trip with some time at the hotel before and after things would have to develop quickly to have any kind of story. There was a grand gesture which I felt was unnecessary and also a little unbelievable, but I thought this was an enjoyable story, and just the ticket if you wanted a quick escape with a short, untaxing read. I'd rate this as 3½ stars.

3.5 stars

*Many thanks to the publishers, Entangled Publishing, and Netgalley for providing me with an e-arc of this book for my honest review.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Passion and Propriety by Elise de Callister

Book cover: Passion & Propriety by Elise de SallierWilliam, Viscount Blackthorn has lived a horribly unhappy life. He was born to a cursed family, meaning that his mother died giving birth to him, like the previous 5 or so generations. His father was a lecherous alcoholic and had nothing but hatred and venom for his son.  The neighbourhood despised and feared the family and he met with kindness only from the servants in his house and his only childhood playmate. As soon as possible, William was sent off to boarding school. There, he was ostracised by his peers for the curse.  Not wanting to pass on the curse to future generations William determined never to marry, and therefore was able to make a career choice generally not available to firstborn sons – he joined the army rather than come home and tend to his estate after his father’s death. The Blackthorn curse is thought by many to have cursed the district too. Many families have moved away, both to avoid this, and to try and find a better landlord, because William’s steward has kept the harsh rules that the previous Lord Blackthorn imposed and William has never intervened. William is battleworn and battle scarred and in fact is gravely injured. Refusing to let his injured arm be amputated William has instead come home to die.
“His death would put an end to the curse that had plagued his family for generations, and it seemed fitting for that to occur at the place where it all began.”
Passing the local church on the way William is attracted by the music being played and he goes in to listen. He recognises the woman playing the music as his former childhood playmate, the vicar’s eldest daughter Hannah, the sole bright spot of his youth.

Hannah is having a very bad day. It is her twenty seventh birthday, which means she is now officially an old maid. She has had a busy and useful life for the past few years, helping her father tend his flock and raise her sisters after the death of her mother, but she would like a family of her own. She is trying to accept that her dreams of marriage and motherhood are going to remain just that – dreams. Later that day she goes to visit her mother’s grave and finds William has collapsed in the graveyard. She immediately goes to help him, but finds herself in a dilemma. The steward of the estate has dismissed nearly all the staff and is currently away on a ‘business trip’ so there is nobody to pay for medical care for William and nobody will go there from kindness due to the curse. Hannah decides to go and care for him herself with the naive hope that her status as an old maid will protect her reputation, and the reputation of her sisters by association. It probably would have made more sense for her to have nursed him in the vicarage, but she doesn’t realise how little assistance she will have at Blackthorn Manor.

William has been sorely lacking in tender care in his life, and becomes very fond of Hannah’s company. This is in addition to finding her extremely attractive, a feeling that is mutual. In these times unmarried men and women couldn’t really be friends and William can’t offer anything more, though he finds himself wishing that he could. When circumstances intervene William and Hannah find themselves thrown together once more, but will he be able to continue to resist her?

I thought this was a very entertaining read although there were a few times I had to suspend my disbelief a bit, I really don’t think he could have returned home from war abroad with his arm as it was and I also believed that if people were as happy and relieved to get servant work as they appeared to be they would have been more discreet – if they’d been my servants I’d have got rid of them all and rehired! Nothing is kept secret, and even allowing for servants gossiping things which they were never told somehow get to be common knowledge.

I really liked both the hero and the heroine. I deeply pitied William for how sad and unloved his life had been. Only in the army had he found acceptance, when he could leave his horrible family and the memory of the curse behind.

The thoughts of both William and Hannah are often really amusing, and I enjoyed their dry humour. Here is William with a hangover:
“He was clearly suffering some terrible, life-threatening malady.....There was no point to Hannah catching whatever dreaded disease had claimed him.” 
Their attitudes in some respects seemed to be a little too modern in my eyes, particularly their attitudes to sex. Although some reasoning is given for this, considering both of them are virgins they seem to know an awful lot about sex and are happy to openly discuss it with just about anybody! There were a few words and phrases which jumped out as being too modern, or American, e.g. ‘darned’ and things such as William making a reference to his disabled left hand only noticing when he has to cut his food but it would notice anytime he eats because the custom in Britain is to have the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right at all times, not just when cutting food. I also am not sure whether a ‘sulky’ is a carriage that would have generally been found in England at the time, I would have thought a gig or phaeton would be more likely, depending on what class of person was driving, but these are small quibbles in the scheme of things.

There are some interesting secondary characters introduced in this novel, too. Hannah’s friend, Grace Daniels is the illegitimate daughter of a lord, who was cast out by her stepmother after her father’s death. She now provides apothecary care and herbal tinctures to the community and she was instrumental in saving William’s life by her work on his arm. She gets off to a very poor start with William’s new steward, and it’s a real mystery as to why, but Grace’s story seems set to be told in the second book in the series, Duty and Desire, due out in early 2015, which I'd certainly like to read. I thought Passion and Propriety was a very entertaining book and it was a lovely way to while away a rainy Sunday! This is better than a 3 star read but not quite a 4 for me.  Please note, for those of you who prefer to avoid them, that this novel contains sex scenes.

3.5 star read

*Many thanks to the publisher of this book, The Writer's Coffee Shop, for allowing me to have an e-ARC copy via Netgalley for my honest review. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

Book Cover - Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James
I had never read anything by this author before, though I know she has written stories focusing on the lives of authors such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, rather than their works. In the latest book by Syrie James the focus is on Jane Austen, aged fifteen.

One of Jane Austen’s brothers caught the eye of a rich relative and his wife, the Knights. As the Knights didn’t have any children, they took on Edward Austen as if he was their son and he became heir to their estate. This sounds odd to us, but in those days this wasn’t that unusual an occurrence. It would have been a wonderful opportunity for Edward to move in a higher level of society, and would have helped assure the safety of his siblings, as Jane’s father was a clergyman, and so when he died, his income would largely die too. In this story, told from Jane’s point of view, we travel to the summer that Jane was fifteen. Her brother Edward becomes engaged and the whole Austen family is invited to Kent to meet Edward’s prospective in-laws, the family of Sir Brook Bridges, which sounds like a made up name, but he really was called that!

Jane, her older sister Cassandra, twelve year old brother Charles and their mother set off to journey first to the Knights, where Mrs Austen is so affected by the travelling, that she stays there while the younger Austens go ahead to the Bridges’ house. Unfortunately, the carriage has a mishap and topples over into deep mud. Fortunately, there are some rescuers on hand – Mr Edward Taylor, seventeen year old heir to the nearby Bifrons estate and cousin to the Bridges. Jane immediately feels very attracted to the exciting and reckless Mr Taylor, and she looks forward to getting to know him better. There will be good opportunity to do this, as he, and his cousins the Paylers are invited to the Bridges’ home for all their events. One of the Payler brothers seems to be interested in Cassandra, but his sister, Charlotte, only has eyes for Edward Taylor, so Jane has a rival for his affections.

Edward Austen’s betrothed, Miss Elizabeth Bridges is one of a large family. Jane and her family also get to know Elizabeth’s siblings, including the sisters closest in age to her.  Fanny, the eldest sister, got engaged hot on the heels of her sister and is upfront about her practical, bordering on mercenary, reasons for marriage. Sophia, the sister next in age to Elizabeth has similar interests to Mr Cage, Fanny’s betrothed, which leads Jane to wonder whether he has chosen the wrong sister to marry...

This was an interesting glimpse at the type of events and entertainment that took place at house parties in the late 1700s. There are a number of nods to Austen’s works, which of course were nearly all still unwritten at this point in her life, both in the events occurring and the verbiage used – there is even a ‘fine eyes’ reference, plus things like this wonderful quote from Northanger Abbey:
“It seems that a young lady, if she has the misfortune of knowing anything should conceal it as well as she can.”
Due to the bad weather the young people decide to put on a play, which is one of the things that happen in Mansfield Park, although thankfully the play chosen is less scandalous than ‘Lover’s Vows’. One character’s comments on his role this really reminded me of the blockish Mr Rushworth. Also, Jane’s pride in her matchmaking skills also reminded me of another matchmaker – a Miss Woodhouse who had more confidence in her abilities than was deserved!

As we all know, Cassandra burnt a lot of Jane’s letters after Jane’s death, and the Austen family were careful how they presented Jane’s image, but if you’ve ever read any of the letters that remain you can see (although you’d assume it from her novels anyway) that Jane Austen was an avid watcher of people and their relationships, delighting in the absurd and quick to judge – Elizabeth Bennet didn’t get those qualities from nowhere! There were a number of comments and thoughts made by Jane in this that I thought seemed to be in her voice or reflect views that, to my understanding, she held, such as her view that one shouldn’t marry without affection:
“To conceive of living forever with a person one could neither respect nor admire! It seemed to me a crime against morality and humanity.”
However, at other times the voice didn’t ring true for me – it was little things, such as when Edward Taylor was introduced his appearance was described in some detail, which is not something I'd usually associate with Austen's usual way of writing, as she usually describes people quite sparingly, although I accept that she may have used a different style writing for herself than she would have done in a novel. Some of the word usage seemed a bit too modern as well, such as the repeated use of the words fiancé and fiancée, which date from after Austen’s lifetime.

One thing I wasn’t sure about was the depiction of Jane’s character. She’s only fifteen in this story but sometimes she really is quite foolhardy and lacking in propriety which doesn’t really tie in with my view of her. Some of her behaviour had a shade of the ‘Lydia Bennet’ to it, and from how she judges Lydia in Pride & Prejudice I don’t see her as being that type of person at that age. I also felt a little melancholy reading this story. It isn’t a melancholy story, any more than any other story which looks back at a person’s youth, but knowing things that happened later in Austen’s life meant that you had some idea of how the story would end. Actually, the end was more uplifting than I was expecting, bearing this in mind. I liked what Jane learned about herself during her stay, and the encouragement she took from the stay towards pursuing her writing goals.
“For the first time, I felt that I had a direction: a path or plan which might lead to me improving my skills as a writer. I determined from that moment forth to follow it.”
A touch I enjoyed was that during Jane’s stay she even writes a story that you can read in her juvenilia. I don’t know whether this story was really inspired by her stay in Kent or whether it’s part of the fiction of this book. The blurb says that this book is inspired by real events and there is a section right at the end which helpfully makes clear which parts are known and which parts imagined. Overall, I would say that this is something unusual in the world of Austen-inspired fiction, and it's worth a read. I certainly enjoyed it!

4 star read

*My thanks to the publishers, Penguin Group for allowing me to have an e-arc copy of this book from the publishers, via Netgalley, for my honest review.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Book Logo
Some time ago the Austenesque world was abuzz with something new – a series of YouTube videos telling an updated version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I was sceptical, but I started on episode 1 and had a marathon watch-a-thon until I’d caught up. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (or LBD, as many people shorted it to) moved the Bennets to modern-day California. The family consists of lovely sweet Jane, our somewhat snarky heroine Lizzie and the energetic younger sister Lydia. Lizzie is studying mass communications for her masters degree and is making a video diary as part of her degree. Like thousands of others, I tuned in twice a week for a 5-ish minute video with an insanely catchy theme tune, and caught up with a snippet of Lizzie’s life.

I thought this was such a clever series. It’s one thing doing a modern update; I’ve read plenty of those, but this also had to work within some limitations. Firstly, the perspective is quite limited – these are Lizzie’s videos and very much seen through her filter. Secondly, the videos were being posted online from the outset, which some people know, and others find out throughout the course of the videos. Some characters we don’t see in person, and Lizzie does some ‘costume theatre’ to play their roles, which I found really funny, particularly her interpretation of her mother, complete with hat.  There was also content in other platforms, such as twitter accounts of the characters that you could follow etc. Although obviously modernised, the main story points of Pride & Prejudice were all identifiable in the events the videos report.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Book - The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
When I heard there was a book of the LBD I wondered if it would bring anything new to the table, or whether it’d be the same as the videos but just in book form. The events of the videos are obviously discussed, but the book gave a bit of a fuller picture of things, and because it’s a private journal rather than a public video there are also some things which weren’t included in the vlog. The videos are very much from Lizzie’s point of view but there is very often somebody else on screen, so their views can come across too. In a journal everything is solely through Lizzy’s filter, which as we know, can be faulty.

For me, the aspect that changed most from the story Pride & Prejudice, which comes across particularly well in the videos, was the character of Lydia. She was a much more developed character than most Lydias in modernised versions. She’s a real party girl as you’d expect, but she takes her sisters’ opinions of her more to heart than they realise. She is loud, energetic and brash – but she is also funny, loving and observant and generally pretty adorable, if a little manic! She is quite lonely too, and is absolutely ripe for manipulation by George Wickham. He is completely ruthless here, and the majority of the blame for the event representing Lydia’s elopement in P&P lies with George. He is worse than Wickham in P&P in my eyes, as this George purposely intends to harm Lydia, which is a crime I would acquit original Wickham of, although his actions were obviously reprehensible. Lydia’s reaction to the event is very different to Pride & Prejudice’s Lydia too. This Lydia shows genuine remorse which goes a long way to securing your goodwill towards her, if you didn’t already love her.

Mr Bennet is represented via costume theatre in the vlog, but he makes appearances in Lizzie’s diary and his reaction to the Mr Collins situation renewed my appreciation for one aspect of the original Mr Bennet’s personality – the fact that he doesn’t try to force his daughter into marriage and actively discourages her from a match that will make her miserable. Here, the marriage offer is instead a job offer that would see Lizzy have to give up her degree in its final year. It would be desirable from a financial perspective as the Bennets are undergoing financial difficulties and Lizzie would no longer need to rely on her parents. LBD Mr Bennet’s support reminded me that, just as in Pride & Prejudice, Mr Bennet may not have done all the financial things as he should have but he doesn’t intend that his daughters should pay the price while he’s still able to prevent it.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Costume Theatre Mrs Bennet and Mr Bennet
Mrs Bennet was my favourite of all the costume theatre moments in the videos. Lizzie’s renditions of a southern belle who is determined to get her girls married off and popping out grandchildren were some of the funniest moments. In the book I felt her character was developed further by Lizzie’s diary entries. She is painted in an embarrassing but very affectionate light. In fact, the whole family has a bond that really comes across well.

Mr Collins is also reimagined from his Pride & Prejudice counterpart – rather than an unctuous sycophant he is here quite a sweet man, although he is still verbose and pompous. I got pretty fond of Ricky Collins, and you never expect to get fond of Mr Collins in Pride & Prejudice updates!

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Lizzie and Darcy
What about our beloved hero? Well, this would be my only real downside to this book, lack of Darcy time. At first Lizzie talks about the public reaction to Darcy’s portrayal on her videos but very little about him. Because the diary is so much more from her perspective and he is not important to her, he doesn’t get much page time. In Pride & Prejudice the narrator tells us that Darcy is interested in Lizzy, but since the narrator here is Lizzie, who has no clue, some things aren’t so obvious. Later, when Lizzie meets up with Darcy at his company I was hoping we’d get some of her feelings on the situation, since this is her personal diary, but it was glossed over pretty quickly. Her change in sentiment isn’t there in much depth at all, which seems an unusual choice as this is a diary. I would definitely have been interested to read that. There is also very little on Darcy at the end of the story; I’d have liked to have seen more of them together as a couple in the book.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Charlotte, Lizzie, Lydia, Jane
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The dialogue was often very amusing and was very identifiable as Lizzie’s voice from her videos. I thought it was an excellent enhancement to the original series. If you were thinking of getting the book and not watching the series I don’t think you’d be getting the full impact. Jane’s sweetness, Lydia’s excitable puppy quality and particularly things like the costume theatre have to be seen to be appreciated fully! The good news is that the videos, which have since won an Emmy Award, are available on YouTube so all you need to do is make the time to go and watch them! For those people who’ve already watched the videos there are couple of new videos to celebrate the release of the book so make sure you catch those!

4 star read

My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with the ARC of this book for review.