The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick is a clever modernization of the classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s modern not just in setting but also in that it goes with a youtube series by the same name. Basically Lizzie records the events of her daily life as a video blog as an experiment in social media for her thesis. Lizzie is keeping a written diary that goes alongside the videos and while there is a bit of overlap, each has it’s own angle on the events. The diary is what makes up the book and you can watch the videos as you go. I actually watched the videos a while before I even knew about the book and I really enjoyed both. If you are a fan of Austen and enjoy the translation of classics into modern contexts then you will love this book!
Things that I liked:
Lydia is a different and more complex character than in the original Austen. She’s got a full on crazy personality and is very OTT but she also has a bit more depth under that surface. She is more aware of her flaws and sensitive about being judged by her sisters. In the videos there is a side channel where Lydia does her own vlogs. They start off all bubbly and bright and shallow featuring things like shopping hauls and cute kittens but eventually progress to be a bit darker as she processes stuff about her relationship with George Wickham and with her sisters.
Darcy’s status and high position is as the CEO of Pemberly Digital, which I like better than him just being a wealthy land owner. He earns Lizzie’s respect in a different way because of this – not just her looking at the property and being impressed but at the business he runs successfully.
There are no actual marriages in the text and the pairing up if you like comes in the form of dating or business partnerships or a blend of both. However there are a number of nods to the theme so prevalent in P&P through the characterization of Mrs Bennet who is old fashioned and southern in her ambitions to marry her daughters off to wealthy men.
Jane is the best Jane that I have seen (this obviously only applies to the videos). I’ve always thought Jane was poorly cast in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, although I suppose she did fit the archetype for that time.
It was a good read in general and I didn’t get bored of reading it even though I’d read the original and watched the videos before reading the diary.
Things I didn’t like (or took a while to get used to)
Lizzie is not as glittering and charming as a character. Her humour in the original does have bits of sarcasm but I thought this was exaggerated to the point of making her more annoying than charming – and much more self centered! But you do get used to her and she is still a good character. It’s always going to be hard to live up to a beloved character though so you can’t be too harsh!
Charlotte has much more of a ‘happy ending’ in her modern setting, which isn’t that true to the book but it does make sense for the time period change. It’s only because of the customs of the 19th century that Charlotte ends up needing to marry someone for her livelihood, while in the modern world she is accepting a business proposal which doesn’t really influence her personal life except for providing an income to support her family.
There are lots more things about the text which I could rave about, like Jane and Bing and Darcy being kind of indie/hipster but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
If you don’t want to read it then I still recommend the youtube series!
My rating overall? 3/5