I loved the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but, as any who happen to follow this blog know, I was looking forward to this book with both anticipation and trepidation. Can they do something new with a novelization of a modern webshow based on a classic novel? It turns out they, in the form of Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, can do something new and, in different ways, do so as spectacularly well as the web series itself. Simply putting the web series into novel form would have been as titillating as Darcy’s small talk at a party. Not much. How did they overcome the challenges. Well, let’s reflect on why so many of us loved the web series in the first place: execution. As brilliant as the premise was, the show’s execution in direction, writing, and a brilliant cast (all were great but especially loved Ashley Clements in the title role) made the premise come alive and engaged us with the lives of the characters. [Full disclousure: I received an advanced reviewers copy of the novel for an honest review.]
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries holds a special place in Austen ‘verse since they both convey the heart of the story and make it current and fresh. It was also done well. For a deeper dive into the series, see my review of The Brilliant Lizzie Bennet Diaries – You Did Austen Proud. So, for the novel to succeed, it can’t just rehash the show since those factors (and those actors) aren’t available to make it come alive. Nicely enough, it doesn’t. It’s Lizzie’s secret diary, going deeper into her thoughts and conversations, between the episodes. And I fell in love with the characters all over again.
While it’s theoretically possible to love the book without watching the series, you really would miss a lot. This in depth dive between webisodes references those videos, so, while you could follow it, it would be barren without the full context. Do I agree with every single choice point? No. However, the novel draws us back into the world in a different and richer way; it allows us to peer further into Lizzie’s head and see more of the background action. Here’s the funny thing – I obviously know where the story is going to go and what happens to the characters and I still couldn’t put the book down. Not just because it pulled me in again, but because I was more intrigued to see how and, sometimes, why, it played out as it did and Lizzie’s thoughts about it as what would happen. Even while knowing the whole story and the characters, I was never bored. In some ways, this even provides some insights into the characters of the original Pride and Prejudice. Once again, you did Austen proud with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
**** SPOILER ALERT – Potential spoilers below *****
One thing that’s clear in the milieu of the characters is that we’re in a post-marriage world. It’s not that the characters aren’t part of a family with a married Mom and Dad, but that living together (or at least sleeping together) outside of marriage is just the natural thing that everyone does. Kind of like breathing. It seems that there will come a time when there will be nothing left for Wickham to do that will shock and provide potential shame. Recordings of sex do it for now, but, given the course of events that won’t be enough to get a rise out the family or the need for Darcy to come to the rescue. We are adrift, our moorings of a Christian basis for marriage have snapped. I’m afraid that we will come to a time when we won’t be able to tell this story. There will be nothing left that’s seen as inappropriate. Of course, this is not just a literary loss but a loss to the fabric of our world as well. A recognition of the perils of pride and prejudice, a sacrificial move to save a reputation, a reason for a reputation at all (no such thing as bad publicity) and a deep concern for truth all have a Biblical basis. (No, I’m not saying that only Christians exhibit humility, truth telling or sacrifice, I am saying that the foundation for those being important have Judeo-Christian underpinnings and find their fullest reflection in the person of Jesus Christ.) Time will tell, but I fear for the day that Austen will be read, if at all, for historical interest and not be seen as relevant to our lives, a day when the events leave many saying: “what’s the fuss?” Here’s hoping I’m wrong