It has been almost six months since I last reviewed a Pride and Prejudice spinoff, so this weekend I read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick. This is a novelization of the TV series, but you don’t actually have to have watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries to follow the novel.
The story opens with handsome med student Bing Lee moving into the biggest McMansion in town, with snobbish sister Caroline and hipster friend Darcy in tow. Lizzie is a communications grad student and secret vlogger, who spends her days in the library with her friend Charlotte. Jane is a perpetually cheerful fashion designer, although she’s living at home while fetching coffee and samples for more important designers when the story opens. It’s a lovely reimagining of classic Jane. (Look, some of us actually have sisters who are cheerful and genuinely nice to everyone, and I always like when Jane is seen as smart and successful, as well as nice.)
Mr. Collins is a tech startup wannabe, who’s secured a massive investment from venture capitalist Catherine de Bourgh, although his company hasn’t made much of anything yet. He’s spot on, spouting corporate platitudes and elevator pitches, completely full of himself, and yet not entirely unsympathetic. (It’s actually a pretty kind reinvention, considering another Pride&Prejudice spinoff has Mr Collins getting chased by a swarm of bees into a cowpond where he drowns.) So good. And then Lizzie gets a gig at Pemberley Digital, where a certain brooding hipster is the CEO.
Charlotte is offered a job with Collins’ new company (after Lizzie turns it down, of course), and instead of Austen’s fairly depressing depiction of Charlotte choosing to marry Collins over being an old maid, this Charlotte decides to put her graduate work on hold to accept a lucrative position at a new media startup.
In the original P&P, Lydia’s elopement brings embarrassment and dishonor to the whole family because she ran off and lived with Wickham before they were married. Fortunately, Darcy steps in to convince Wickham is actually marry her, by paying him an undisclosed sum. This is a rough event to modernize. We don’t have the same disapproval for a young couple spending the night together anymore, and also a modern-day hero would be pretty disturbing if he paid a reprobate like Wickham to marry a teenage girl.
So what could a boy-crazy, attention-starved thoughtless young girl like Lydia do to wreck her life? She makes a private sex tape with Wickham, and it leaks, of course. It’s a perfect modernization of Lydia’s elopement, a small mistake with Wickham turns incredibly embarrassing for the entire Bennet family and threatens to destroy Lydia’s entire future.
The novel has some sweet Darcy and Elizabeth moments, with cute nods to the original, but where it really shines in Lizzie’s relationships with her sisters and Charlotte. The authors have managed to create a grad student Lizzie, with authentic reactions to modern day challenges of her relationships, living at home as an adult, and starting a new media career, all while still reminding readers of Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett.
I received and eARC of this novel from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Just in case that’s not enough Darcy and Elizabeth for you, here are some of my other posts about Pride And Prejudice spinoffs:
- Unleashing Mr. Darcy
- Betrothed to Mr. Darcy
- Stride And Prejudice
- Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star
- Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife
- The Independence Of Miss Mary Bennett
From Other Austenites:
- The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (caitieflum.wordpress.com)
- My Love for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (myrenaissanceblog.wordpress.com)
- A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 1 – 16 (austenprose.com)