Old Friends and New Fancies
Written in 1914, this is the original of the species and worth reading for that reason alone. Pivoting on the happily wed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, the story includes characters from all of Austen’s most popular novels. The plot is propelled by a romance between Col. Fitzwilliam and Mary Crawford (lately of Mansfield Park) while Mrs. Knightley (neé Emma Woodhouse) takes Kitty Bennet under her wing. Reading like a holiday special where EVERYBODY turns up to play their own caricature but nonetheless enjoyable as Brinton’s love and respect for Jane Austen shines through.
The Longbourn Letters
The most recent addition to the stable of spin-offs, this quick read takes a simple idea and executes it beautifully. An epistolary novel, consisting solely of the correspondence between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Collins over a period of seven years The Longbourne Letters is completely convincing and a joy to read. A book best suited to those who consider Mr. Bennet the true hero of Pride and Prejudice.
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The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
As contemporary as a classic could possibly get, this is the secret book diary with revelations from behind the scenes at the secret vlog diary of Lizzie Bennet. Lizzie is a 24 year old communications graduate and Colin Firth fan who, with the help of her best friend Charlotte, records the trials and tribulations of daily life on YouTube. Things get interesting when Bing Lee and William Darcy turn up. I didn’t want to like this but it’s so cleverly written I couldn’t help myself. It’s funny and, in a stroke of genius, Kitty Bennet is, in fact, the cat.
The Forgotten Sister
Unknown to all, while the Bennet family is consumed with the affairs of Jane, Lizzie and Lydia, Mary Bennet was privately conducting her own love story with a suitor less suitable than even George Wickham. While Paynter’s Mary is astute, and full of clever insight into the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy, I found her character sour and self-righteous. Admittedly, I took against her for her scorn of Mr. Bennet (‘he is so horrid and sarcastic, there is no pleasing him’). If Pride and Prejudice is as witty and entertaining as Elizabeth Bennet, this book has a tone to match its protagonist’s more serious personality. The plot moves towards an Antipodean twist which may appeal to readers Down Under.
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Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride & Prejudice
Aimed at Young Adult readers and structured as a diary, Lydia retells the story from the point of view of the wild child of the Bennet family. Perennially portrayed as ‘vain, ignorant, idle and absolutely uncontrolled,’ Lydia gets a chance to display the steely core of determination beneath her silly exterior and even Wickham is redeemed. Lydia is the perfect book with which to tempt a younger teen towards the delights of Austen; my twelve-year-old adored this book and so did I. To use Lydia’s phrase, I was ‘monstrous impressed.’
This was very easy to read but only because I accidentally purchased the LARGE PRINT version. It went downhill from there. Eligible is a contemporary re-telling of the original plot which, frankly, made me queasy. Jane is a yoga instructor of almost 40. Chip (Chip?!) and Darcy are doctors, Darcy a neurosurgeon (of course!). Kitty and Lydia spend their days texting, doing CrossFit workouts and planning lunch dates. Our heroine, Liz, is a writer-at-large for a hip magazine and has been hanging off the coattails of a married man for the past FOURTEEN YEARS! NO! But wait, it gets worse: the entire Bennet family is transported to the bizarre world of a reality dating series. Read it and weep.
Mr. Darcy's Daughters
Set two decades after the events of Pride and Prejudice, this is the first in a series of light-hearted sequels exploring the exploits of the next generation of Darcys. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy have conveniently absconded to Constantinople on a diplomatic mission leaving their five daughters in London in the care of Col. Fitzwilliam. Bearing little or no relation to the original, other than the characters of the Darcy girls being modelled upon those of the Bennets, this is very much Austen-lite. Fun and frivolous, with dashing heroes and fancy frocks galore, Mr. Darcy’s Daughters and others in the series, make ideal beach-reading. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit just how much I enjoyed reading this series. Don't judge me.
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Death Comes to Pemberley
The doyenne of crime fiction writes a sombre sequel to Pride and Prejudice. We enter Pemberley on the eve of a great ball to which all of society is invited, except of course Wickham and his wife. George and Lydia resolve to turn up regardless, bringing death and devastation in their wake. Good old Captain Denny is discovered dead in Pemberley Woods and the question is whether Wickham was wicked enough to have murdered his only friend. Although Darcy and Elizabeth are true to character, the plot is less than rewarding. Death Comes to Pemberley sorely lacks the wit and charm of Pride and Prejudice but gothic murder mystery is certainly an interesting twist to the genre.
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Bridget Jones's Diary
‘I don’t know why she didn’t just come out with it and say, “Darling, do shag Mark Darcy over the turkey curry, won’t you? He’s very rich.”’
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the pride of the pack. I love Bridget Jones. She may lack the composure of Elizabeth Bennet but certainly not the wit. Fielding delivers the only homage which can truly stand on its own feet without the genius of Jane Austen propping it up. References to Pride and Prejudice are a bonus, appealing to Austen fans rather than appalling them. And of course, Colin Firth is Darcy.
Pride and Platypus
We move from the sublime to the downright ridiculous. In this supernatural parody, the men of Meryton are subject to a shape-shifting curse at every full moon. Reviews are either one or five star so it’s a love it or hate it kind of book. Having a modicum of pride as to what I display on my shelves and having no interest in a duck-billed Darcy, I gave this a wide berth. Call me prejudiced.
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