Saturday, 13 August 2016

Review: 'The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet' by Bernie Su, Kate Rorick

You know that moment when you realise you actually own a book you've been wanting to read forever but that you just... sort of... forgot about it? It makes me want to hit myself violently with said book, but it happens too often for me to be able to attempt that without causing permanent brain damage. In this latest case I am talking about The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet which I requested actual years ago and only ever read the first few chapters of before being distracted. Yes, I can't believe it either that I managed to get distracted from anything Pride & Prejudice either. I am deeply ashamed!

Pub. Date: 24/06/2014
Publisher: Touchstone

Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.
When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.
Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.
After shamefully forgetting about The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, I was pleasantly surprised by the sudden remembering of me owning it while watching the 2005 Pride & Prejudice adaptation last week. That's when I remembered the Youtube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and how funny and clever it was! And then came the recollection of the novel waiting patiently on my Kindle. So I got straight to reading it. First, some background which is quite crucial. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is based upon the above mentioned Youtube series which was crazy popular when it was going. It was a modern reworking of Jane Austen's famous Pride & Prejudice, making the most of Youtube as a creative medium and of Austen's novel. It made P&P fun for those who thought it was stuffy and boring (those are the worst type of people), and made Youtube fun for me. Turning this into a novel could have gone horribly wrong since it is one more step down the adaptation ladder. Make a novel out of a Youtube series based on a novel? Although I still wouldn't recommend this for any other Youtube series, it did work for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Adaptations of my favourite novel are always sketchy for me. Loving the original so much means that any adaptation has to meet a very high standard, one which is practically impossible to meet. (Aside from that I am also one of those "heathens" who prefers the 2005 film over the BBC adaptation.) Whereas some recent adaptations didn't entirely work for me, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet does absolute justice to what lies at the heart of Jane Austen's novel: the Bennet family. Austen was brilliant at showing the different family relationships in all their highs and lows, especially the relationship between the sisters, and this is something that also comes across in Su and Rorick's adaptation. They remain true to how relatable all of Austen's characters, to their humanity, something that always strikes me anew when I read her books. It updates and changes things, changing characters and places etc., but stays true to itself throughout which makes all of these changes feel logical. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is also fun, laugh out loud fun at times, and it will be one of those reads you finish before you even realize it. It is of course also utterly re-readable.

One of the only potentially negative points about The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is that, being something of a tie-in to the Youtube show, it does feel necessary to watch the show as well. The two compliment each other very well, with the novel expanding enormously on things only mentioned casually in the videos, and in reverse the videos giving you a great visual to go with the novel. Thankfully the Youtube series is great so watching it will be no hardship to those who enjoyed the novel, but I did at times feel like I had to abandon the novel at times to rewatch the series and remind myself of things, especially at the beginning. However, the novel is very well-written. This could have been a very lazy writing job, with Su and Rorick depending on readers loving the series and therefore not attempting anything new or appreciating the different medium they're working with. This is not the case, however, and the writing is delightful. Although it doesn't touch Austen's quick wit or biting criticism, it is one of the best re-working of P&P I have ever read.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is enormous fun and is a very easy and quick read. Su and Rorick have their way with Austen in a way Austen herself would have loved, which makes this something of a must for anyone who loves Lizzie Bennet and Pride & Prejudice. I'd also recommend this of fans who like Romance and YA Fiction.

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