'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 17 November 2013

Review: Lizzy Bennet's Diary

Pride and Prejudice was first published 200 years ago, and this year there are celebrations of what is generally considered to be Jane Austen’s most well-known novel. The events are presented here in a hardcover book with gold foil detail on the cover, and the story retold in diary format from the perspective of Lizzy (Elizabeth) Bennet.

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary is a Christmas gift from her father, but she delays writing in it until she feels she has a good reason. That reason is excitement surrounding the arrival of new neighbours. From then on, Lizzy shares stories from her life, and records happenings big (like travelling to Derbyshire) and small (“We saw two hares today. They looked thin and cold”).

The diary is filled with sotto voce type comments (“Even the deer look down their noses at Rosings Park. One stag would fill the whole of the parsonage garden!”) and little drawings, almost as though Lizzy is sketching them in the margins herself. Some are drawn in a sort of comic strip type style, and I particularly enjoyed the depiction of Lady Catherine when she will not be trifled with and insists on being satisfied. All add humourous commentary to the story.

There are also pressed flowers and leaves (included by way of photographs), and fold out notes and letters. Peruse Lizzy’s dance card, or the menu from the Netherfield Ball. Examine her memories of a visit to London (including a playbill from the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden, and a postcard from the fashionable Harding Howell and Co shop at Pall Mall). Try Aunt Gardiner’s recipe for Camomile Rinse. Look out for a wedding announcement from The Times, too!

Re-imagined in this way, the classic novel is made particularly accessible for a younger audience, and provides context and humour through both words and pictures. There is lots of detail, right down to the endpapers, which are maps. The first is ‘Longbourn Described: A personal view by Elizabeth Bennet’, and the last ‘Pemberley Described: A personal view by Elizabeth Darcy’. It’s interesting to compare the similarities and differences between the two, which bookend the story.

Whether you know and love the story already or not, this is a fabulous variation of Pride and Prejudice.

Title: Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Author: Marcia Williams
Publisher: Walker Books, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: November 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781406346947
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Fiction, Young Adult Fiction