AND NOW FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
SYNOPSIS – (From Goodreads)
You know Darcy: rich, proud, standoffish, disapproving, one of the greatest romantic heroes of all time. But you don’t know this Darcy because THIS Darcy is a woman.
In PREJUDICE & PRIDE, Lynn Messina’s modern retelling with a gender-bendy twist, everything is vaguely familiar and yet wholly new. Bingley is here, in the form of Charlotte “Bingley” Bingston, an heiress staying at the Netherfield hotel on Central Park, as is Longbourn, transformed from an ancestral home into a perennially cash-strapped art museum on the edge of the city. Naturally, it employs an audacious fundraiser with an amused glint in his eye called Bennet.
All the favorite characters are present and cleverly updated: Providing the cringe-worthy bon mots is Mr. Meryton, the nerve-wracked executive director of the Longbourn who’s always on the lookout for heiresses to join his museum’s very important committees. (Universally acknowledged truth: Any woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a social committee to chair.) Collin Parsons is still in obsequious, if ironic, awe of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The wicked Georgia Wickham toils as a graphic designer at Redcoat Design by day and schemes against Darcy by night.
GUEST POST – teachergirl73
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been making my way through various “reimaginings” of the works by Jane Austen. The Austen Project, has published three reinterpretations of Austen’s novels Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, Emma by Alexander McCall Smith and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. Of these three reimagined stories, I have read Emma and Sense & Sensibility, and sadly was left feeling a profound sense of disappointment after reading both novels. I am hopeful that when I get around to reading McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey, it will redeem The Austen Project in my eyes, and give me hope that the yet to be published Pride and Prejudice, my all-time favourite of Austen’s works, will be worthy of its inspiration.
Thankfully, my disappointment over both Trollope’s and Smith’s perspectives on Sense & Sensibility and Emma, have not put me off of reading the works of other authors who wish to pay tribute to Austen’s novels. In Prejudice and Pride by Lynn Messina, Austen’s most beloved story gets a 21st century re-boot which includes relocating the story to New York City, and some interesting twists and turns for the characters. In this tribute to Pride and Prejudice, Messina decides to play with her reader’s ‘sensibilities’ by doing a complete gender swap of all the major characters, with the one exception of Lady Catherine de Bourgh because no one could possibly mess with that character!
There are many parts of this new and fresh take on Pride and Prejudice that I quite enjoyed. The descriptions of the various New York City locales were very well done and reminded me of why I love the city so much. All of the original story’s themes are present. Messina deftly weaves into her modern tale the consequences of how making a very bad first impression can lead to many more incorrect presumptions and misunderstandings. As the story of Prejudice and Pride unfolds, the misconceptions rapidly snowball out of control, leaving a trail of increasingly devastating results which ultimately is what will pull the reader in and keep them engaged until the end.
There is one part of this re-imagined story that I had a difficult time overcoming and that was the gender swap. It is a really neat twist on the story and I was very curious to see how it would work when I first started reading the story. Unfortunately, I spent much of the novel thinking, “That wouldn’t happen in real life!” as Elizabeth Bennet’s personality traits were transferred into Bennet Bethle, a 21st century man. The effect of transferring Mr. Darcy’s qualities into Darcy Fitzwilliam, a young heiress, was less of an issue, but in the end I just found it really difficult to accept the gender swap as believable.
The plight of Elizabeth Bennet and the rest of her sisters, living in the early 19th century England, simply cannot be applied to a young, educated male living in New York City in the present day. All of the Bennet women, including their mother, faced the very real possibility of losing their home and livelihood upon the passing of Mr. Bennet because there was no male heir in their immediate family. Bennet Bethle comes from a middle class background which granted makes him an unlikely suitor for an heiress with substantial wealth, but it is still not nearly the same disadvantage that Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters faced. This disconnect between the characters made it difficult for me to buy into the evolution of Bennet and Darcy’s relationship, as they eventually realize their love for one another.
Overall, the story was enjoyable, and I applaud Messina’s attempt to tackle a project inspired by a much loved classic. It cannot be easy taking on the challenge of modernizing a story such as Pride and Prejudice. I would definitely consider reading more novels by her.
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