Lydia Bennet's Story : A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Odiwe
Paperback: 356 pages
Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who'll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia's life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?
In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia's eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all .
Being an ardent fan of Pride and Prejudice, I've always read P&P sequels with much interest. This book is intriguing in that it finally gives Lydia Bennet, a character much maligned in the original story, a chance to have her own story told. For those who haven't read this book, Lydia is the youngest of five sisters and a most determined flirt. She elopes with and is finally married off to George Wickham who later turns out to be the villain of the story.
The first half of this book is given over to Lydia's growing obsession with Wickham and the elopement. This part is well-known but is more fleshed out and detailed. The second half details Lydia's growing disenchantment with her new husband and feckless marriage, especially when she visits her more happily-married sisters and begins to see glaring differences between their loving marriages and her own deteriorating one.
The book combines third-person narrative with excerpts taken from Lydia's diary. This diary bit was a complete surprise to me as I'd never thought Lydia to be of the diary-writing type. Also, at first I was confused by the glaring differences between events described in the narration and what Lydia writes down in her diary about the same events. I finally figured that's the author's way of showing how things are skewed and biased from Lydia's thoughtless perspective when compared to the actuality of the events.
The first half of the book did nothing to endear this character to me. But in the second half, Lydia grows up (just a bit, not a lot) and finally begins to show some maturity. This is the part where I actually began to like her. She doesn't get completely reformed - that I would have never believed. However it's interesting to see how Lydia is caught in her own trap. Having established she's the most reckless woman and the "most determined flirt" ever, she doesn't know quite how to break out of the tarnished mold which has now become her entire identity.
The way the book ends makes for interesting reading, but wasn't actually all that believable. The reason for that is - given Lydia's reputation and personal inclinations which have not been fully tamed by her disastrous life, it's really difficult to swallow that she could end up like she does. I know I sound really ambiguous. But I can't say more without giving away the ending.
I've already mentioned that I feel that Lydia was not a character who had the personality or the patience to scribble in a diary, pouring out her intimate thoughts in an inanimate object. This is largely because Lydia is a creature of impulse - doing things but not actually thinking about them. To write in a diary implies otherwise. That's the reason I don't find it particularly believable.
There were also some instances where I felt the language and phrases and even some instances to be too modern and overtly sexual to belong in a regency-era story, particularly something that's an extension of Jane Austen's whose books were the soul of gentility. As always, this had a jarring effect and broke the flow of the story for me.
The author nicely makes use of existing material on Lydia Bennet to incorporate, and later expand on, in her own style to craft a story that's overall fun and makes for light, entertaining reading. It has its flaws like every book, but manages to rise above it and suck the readers into the story. And that's the truly important part.
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