Saturday, 10 May 2008

Book review: Lydia Bennet’s Story

First, I want to apologise to our dearest friend Jane Odiwe for I am so late in giving this review. Second, I want to thank her for sending me the beautiful Lydia Bennet’s Story, which I finished two weeks ago with a feeling of ‘why didn’t I read it sooner?’

Indeed, dear friends, for although I was late in reading Lydia, I finished her in only two reading days. And I arrived at the conclusion that Lydia Bennet’s Story a beautiful story worth a special review, albeit short due to my time constrain.

For a start, I have to admit that although I admire Elizabeth Bennet, and of course, Mr. Darcy, they are not my favourite couple (everybody: gasp!). Indeed, they are romantic, interesting, etc, and I do have a particular fandom towards Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth pairing, though I admit that Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfayden were also very pleasing to watch (MM created this sensitive Mr. Darcy that was different from CF’s Darcy). My favourite couple is actually – strangely – Emma/Mr. Knightley, tailed by Marianne/Brandon, with Lizzy/Darcy and Fanny/Edmund as the third winners. Blasphemy! Yes, guilty as charged! :-D

Now, it is the truth universally acknowledged that Pride & Prejudice is one of the best-selling classical books ever written. Yet, it stopped there, with Lizzy/Darcy’s and Jane/Bingley’s weddings, leaving a vast imaginary land where many writers have dwelled and creatively written PP sequels. The sequels were mostly about Lizzy and Darcy though, and I could only recall one ‘sequel’, Miss de Bourgh’s Adventure, casting a non-Lizzy/Darcy character as the main spotlight. Instead, that book cast Anne de Bourgh, daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as the main heroine (Should have that on my pull list as well, the excerpt is very entertaining!). So, I was naturally interested when I learned that dear Jane Odiwe wrote a sequel about Lizzy’s sister. And the Lydia Bennet, of all people!

That being said, I enjoy re-reading Lizzy and Darcy in Lydia Bennet’s Story, for Jane Odiwe (herewith abbreviated as JO to differentiate with our Jane Austen) wrote their character to resemble the Lizzy/Darcy I have in mind when reading Pride & Prejudice. But I have to say that I dislike, dislike, dislike Lydia Wickham nee Bennet.

Why, no wonder. For I never liked her either when watching/reading PP. I think she’s a brat in need of a spank, and my opinion remained during the first half book (Part One). I don’t say that JO did not write Lydia well. In fact, she wrote Lydia so well, that she reminded me why I don’t like this character. What a brat indeed! But I am also intrigued to find out what will happen to the classical Austen brat, and if she ever going to grow up. So, bearing in mind that JO would definitely have a good story stored for me instead of ‘merely’ writing about a worth-spanking brat, I resumed reading.

I have to admit again that I read Part One pretty fast; with the very reason of disliking Lydia. But in between my speed reading, I still managed to admire JO’s way of bringing Lydia back to life. JO wrote the first few pages in a diary style, so it was Lydia’s voice that I heard. The diary was filled with dates as well, so JO must have done pretty thorough research on the PP diary to match Lydia’s diary with events in JA’s PP.

Later, JO switched to third-person style, and Lydia was merged with other characters as well. Part One was basically telling plots and scenes that we have already known from PP, but JO explored it further to fill in gaps and holes of Lydia that our dearest JA did not write of. Hence, we learned of the elaborate day-to-day adventure of Lydia in Brighton and how she eventually fell head over heels to the dazzling (ick!) George Wickham. By the way, I can understand clearly how Mr. Bennet’s feeling was when he saw his silliest daughter in action. I pity him, indeed.

Part One ended with Lydia’s impatience to arrive at Newscastle, to show her husband off to every living creature in town, to be admired as a gorgeous pair of newly-wed. Lordy lordy, how she was going to be surprised! For dearest Mr. Wickham still prevailed to prove that he was a nasty basta – I mean, a very disagreeable gentleman who did not only hold a particular fondness of gambling; he did not hesitate to date and neck women other than his wife! Finally fed up with Wickham’s insolent attitudes, Lydia dispatched herself back to south England, to be with her sisters and family once more.

After about a month staying in Pemberley (and was treated with some new clothes and bonnets by Lizzy), Lydia went to Netherfield (aahhh… Netherfield!) and stayed there for a while. In Hertfordshire, we were introduced to another character. Mr. Alexander Fitzalan, brother of Isabella Fitzalan, a dear friend of Lydia. Mr. Fitzalan was a reserved clergyman who seemed to dislike Lydia so much every time they met. That was okay for her, for she also thought of him as the most boring and disagreeable clergyman – and man in general – ever. Just don’t think of him as Mr. Collins II. I can picture him as a rather sexy reverend. Ahem.

Of course, Netherfield is not Netherfield without dances and parties, so dear Jane and Bingley held another ball while Lydia was there. Naturally, Lydia was very excited about the ball. But never she thought that the ball would be the most unforgettable ball in her life for several unpleasant surprises. First, Caroline Bingley was there, and along with her caustic comments, she brought uncomfortable news that Mr. Wickham was seen in Bath with a girl he claimed as his sister (Wickham did not have sister!). As if it was not enough for the former brat girl Bennet, she met her husband herself a few minutes afterwards, him begging her to return back to him and basically forget everything that had happened before.

Knowing not what to do, Lydia decided to hide Wickham in her room upstairs while she thought of the best strategy to deal with the uproar. But before she told her trusted sister Jane about what had taken place, a young woman barged into the ballroom, demanding to see Wickham at once. This woman (her name was Molly) would later reveal the most despicable truth of all about Wickham.

So shocked about the latest truth she learned about Wickham, Lydia decided to hunt down the information to the very first source. But alas, Wickham himself had run away earlier, possibly after detecting Molly’s presence in Netherfield. What a former brat like Lydia should do then?!

Dear friends, I won’t spoil more now of the ending of the book. Suffice to say that although I was not a fan of Lydia Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, I grew to like her in this book. Lydia grew to be an interesting mature woman here; she combined her ability to enjoy life to the fullest with a new talent to take a deep look into life and decided what was more important: rank, the title of Mrs. Wickham Captain of the Regiment, and dresses… or something more subtle yet more important, like maturity and finding true, undeterred, love.

Bottom line: pick the book if you have not, and join me to thank Jane Odiwe for bringing us a fresh take of the Pride & Prejudice sequel that does not evolve around Lizzy and Darcy alone.

There is a second edition of the book here, with longer sub-title (‘A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice/The continuing adventures of Mrs. Darcy's youngest sister’), still in paperback. It’s a very lovely cover too.

And I’m sorry to be so unaware of a new competition held by Jane Odiwe about Lydia to commemorate Mother’s Day tomorrow (11 May), for the competition is closed today. But here’s the link for the competition, and the result later.

Pic 1. Cover to Lydia Bennet’s Story,

Pic 2. Lydia’s elopement by Jane Odiwe

Pic 3. Jena Malone (left) as Lydia Bennet, PP 2005, from the Movie Photos

Pic 4. Second edition of Lydia Bennet’s Story,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this fantastic book review, Icha. I think after I finished my JA book I will certainly pick this one up.