UK Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
I love Pride and Prejudice. It is definitely one of my favourite books, and I have read it at least every other year since I was fourteen. And I love a good adaptation – but the emphasis here is on good. The only acceptable adaptations, to date, are:
- The 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle (scene for scene perfect)
- Bridget Jones’ Diary
- Bride and Prejudice
- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
- The 1940 adaptation with Lawrence Olivier, where Darcy is a perfect gentleman the whole way through, and all the women wear massive hoop skirts.
Much as I like Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden, their adaptation doesn’t offer anything different from the 1995 version, and there is no way you can do well in two hours what was done perfectly in six. It’s simple maths. And I can’t handle zombies, so that ruled the other one out.
So when I saw that there was not only a modern adaptation, but a modern, genderswapped, adaptation, I was pretty excited. I’d never come across a genderswapped one before, and I thought it would be a lot of fun.
There were two different sides – how well it worked as an adaptation, and how well it worked generally, just as a novel.
We are introduced to Darcy Fitzwilliam as one of the richest and most powerful women in New York. And she’s only 29! But she only looks 24, because why would she look as old and haggard as 29, even though she has been in an extremely high powered, high stress job for eight years? We are constantly reminded that not only are her family loaded, she is independently wealthy in her own right (and apparently brought such shame on the family doing so), and she is extremely driven and fantastically smart. The smartest, in fact, of all her siblings, we are told at one point.
If she is so incredibly smart, her brothers must have eaten crayons as children.
She is a mess. We have characters constantly telling us she is smart, but as the narrative character we only see that she has the most inane and ridiculous internal monologue, absolutely no common sense, and a complete obsession with the brand of flipping everything she wears. She spends three pages thinking about how the song The Twelve Days of Christmas came about, but it never once occurs to her to just? Google it? Like a normal person?
I think these asides are supposed to lend her character, but her character – and the whole narrative – is so contradictory it just comes across as a bit bizarre. Sometimes we are told she was lonely as a child, then we are told she was lonely in New York which was why she came home, to not be lonely. Then we are told she didn’t want to come home, but her mum had a heart attack.
And then she makes out with Luke Bennet, who she hates, under some mistletoe at her parents’ Christmas party the day after she gets home.
And again the next day, when she goes caroling with the Bennets.
Then possibly the next day, possibly the day after (time is a weird and wacky thing in this book. Very rubbery) she gets engaged to her on-again-off-again boyfriend from high school. Then the day after that she goes to tell Luke Bennet that actually, she’s in love with him. Then the day after that she books her wedding venue in New York. Then the day after that she breaks off her engagement (with no evidence that she ever gave the guy his grandmother’s engagement ring back) and goes back to her parents’ house in Pemberley, Ohio. But not before stopping off at the local high school to stop Luke’s brothers being kicked out. On Christmas Eve. When naturally all teaching staff are happy to be in school.
The book started on the 19th December, and, saving a short epilogue, ends on the 26th.
And oh, Luke decides to get engaged to his on-again-off-again girlfriend Charlotte Collins, and have the rehearsal dinner on Christmas Day, to get married on Boxing day, only to call it off and when Darcy turns up at the party, but Luke is there, waiting to tell her he loves her.
There is still 22% of the book to go at this point, my kindle gleefully informed me. In that 22%, Darcy breaks up with Luke the next day, throws a shoe at her mother, gets back together with Luke, and then they get married and have a baby and apparently neither of them is capable of googling “baby girl names”.
I love romance, I love slow burn realisation of feelings, I love the build up to the happy ending.
But this was flipping terrible.
And there were so many arbitrary changes from the source text that made no sense. Charles Bingley becomes Bingley Charles. Why?? Charles is a normal name, even today. And Luke is suddenly the oldest Bennet, instead of the second oldest. Why? It has no bearing on the plot? Mary is written out of the book entirely, whereas Kitty becomes Lydia’s twin, and they are now Kit and Lyle, 14 year old psychopaths (no, really). Jane becomes Jim, and Bingley and Jim are nauseating, because neither gets any development at all, and within two days they are practically married.
But even aside from the bizarre niggles with the unnecessary changes from the source material (honestly if you are going to drop Mary, just drop Kitty too, because Kitty does even less than Mary), it just didn’t work for me as a straight romance. The characters were too unbelievable, there was no tension built between the romantic leads (they go from bickering to snogging to bickering to snogging), and the timeline was just far too rushed to fit everything in and have anyone seem stable.
Also, it is a real pet peeve of mine, and I hate books where I am constantly told by other characters exactly what the lead character is like, when there is nothing in the lead character’s behaviour to demonstrate that. I.E. that she is super smart, when she seems to have the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old, and the comprehension levels of someone who has just drunk several bottles of wine. And she keeps insisting she isn’t shallow as she names the expensive brand name of nearly every item which passes her field of view – in case you forgot she was rich, in the five minutes since she last reminded you she was “independently wealthy”. Her favourite books in high school included Atlas Shrugged, Sense and Sensibility, the Great Gatsby, and War and Peace, and when she was fourteen she started asking for books on investment management and hedge funds for Christmas.
That’s just not believable.
Oh, and did I mention that she categorises every man she meets as a different kind of handsome, and then lists them all each time she assesses someone new, so you know exactly how they all rate against each other?
After a while it starts to look like a game of “I went to the beach and I took…” and you become genuinely concerned about what will happen if she meets too many more men.
But, of course, she’s not shallow really.
I wanted a well rounded character, I wanted a different dynamic to the original romance whilst playing on the same story, I wanted it to be funny and smart and refreshing. I wanted tension and sassy conversation and finally that moment when they realise they like each other.
I was bitterly disappointed.
- The worst flipping adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
- The narrative reads like bad teenage fanfic, and the characters behave completely irrationally. I kept having to put the book down and look away to try and process some of their ridiculous behaviours.
- So much telling and not showing. SO MUCH.
- The conversations are so stilted, and often happen at least three times. WE GET IT. WE DON’T NEED TO GO OVER IT AGAIN.
- By the end of the book, I actually still have no idea what Luke Bennet is like. We get told a lot about what he is like in high school, and they bicker a bit, but… nothing. He is a shell.
Rating: 1/5 – the only pleasure I got from this book was taking pictures of particularly baffling passages and sending them to my friends, so they had to suffer too.