Wednesday, June 25

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

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer received a review copy of this title through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Touchstone and is used solely as an aide to the review.

You've seen her videos read her personal diary.

Lizzie Bennet is a 24 year old grad student, with a brand new video blog. What starts out being for her thesis, turns into a tell-all about her family and her interactions with the arrogant William Darcy. Yet, as much as Lizzie divulges to the internet, she still keeps some things to herself. Only her personal diary can know her true, unfiltered thoughts and feelings as she struggles to understand herself and those around her.

'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' is the companion novel to the web series adaptation of Pride & Prejudice: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Having followed the series from the start, I was already attached to the modern twist on the classic tale, and eager to gain even more of an insight into Lizzie's world.

Lizzie's narrative voice is engaging, and her diary was not – as a part of me feared – simply a rehash of the web series. Technically, the web series is a theatrical recap and only a brief insight into Lizzie's life. Her diary delves more into the story and characters, adding substance, and revealing private details.

Something that is evident from the start of the book is Lizzie's journey as a vlogger. There is a reference to the Vlogbrothers and she is very self-aware of her videos and honest about her progression, for instance mentioning her heavy makeup in the first episode. It is exceptionally relatable to video content creators, particularly budding ones.

There are a smattering of diagrams and pie charts, which Lizzie includes in her diary, along with a poem titled 'Ode to a Broken Phone.' She also incorporates her interaction with social media, particularly some of the comments on her videos, although the commenters' names are not included. If there is one aspect of the social media reaction that I wish they would have included in the diary, it would be the fact that as soon as Darcy made an appearance on Lizzie's videos, her viewers made a meme out of him called "Socially Awkward Darcy."

'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' aligns a lot more with the events of Pride & Prejudice, and the scene parallels are apparent. It appeased me, as a lover of the classic, but also impressed me with the innovative ways that the writers had adapted events and circumstances into a modern setting, such with Caroline's insistence for Lizzie to take a turn about the room with her. Reading the diary confirmed how clever the adaptation truly is.

Through Lizzie's diary, we get to see more of her parents than through their mere caricatures in the series. This means more of the father-daughter dynamic that is so relevant in Pride & Prejudice, but also a look at the more grounded, less theatrical, side of her mother. The greater presence of her parents made the dynamic of her family a lot more realistic and added tension to the weight of their financial situation.

With relation to other characters, Lizzie's dynamic with Darcy are obviously a lot more developed, considering that he is absent from most of the web series, apart from hearsay. It was wonderful to read about her first meeting with him at the Gibson wedding, and also to be immersed in parts of the story that we were only allowed glimpses into through social media sites, such as Twitter and Instagram.

Lizzie's relationship with George is more evident, and readers will be happy to learn that Darcy's letter is included to read in its entirety. Catherine de Bourgh has more of a presence in the diary, and her exasperating comments are on par. However, you do not get to see as much of Lizzie's friendship with Fitz as you do in her videos, which was a little disappointing. 'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' also reiterated just how much I love the way Lydia is portrayed. She is a far more developed and empathetic character, while still remaining true to her classic counterpart.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has a strong cast of characters, but Lizzie's portrayal is particularly important to a successful adaptation. I've always found Elizabeth Bennet to be a relatable character, primarily for her flaws, so the fact that her dogmatic and, of course, prejudiced nature translated so well is a great credit to the writers. I particularly love how Charlotte and Jane are constantly challenging her in their own, but very different, ways.

'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' manages to stand well on its own as an adaptation, although familiarity with the context of the videos is beneficial. It also answers many of the lingering questions from the web series, such as: "Why did Mr. Collins never tell Mrs. Bennet about Lizzie's videos?" and "Why did Bing buy a house in Netherfield?" I would recommend it to any lover of Pride & Prejudice, and of course to fans of 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' web series. You won't be disappointed.


Emma Michaels said...

OMG! This sounds epic! I need this book... NOW.

Keri Payton said...

I loved it way more than I thought I would...and I already knew I was going to devour it.

Becca Rhodes said...

I cant wait.....i get paid friday!!!

Keri Payton said...

I look forward to being able to have a proper conversation with you about it!