There’s always something a little startling about reading (and/or watching) a retelling of a classic piece of literature. There’s also something a little cringe-worthy about it. Sure, there’s always going to be gems out there but there’s also going to be a lot of duds and you never know what you’re going to get until you’re beyond the sell-by date and have invested serious time into it.
For me, this retelling of Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice was neither gem nor dud. It was something in between the two – there really needs to be a word for this; something that’s more layered and complex than simply saying ‘average’, which, in this case, would really be a misnomer. Before I get to that, though, I really need to preface my thoughts by saying that I, like most people, watched the Youtube series first and so went into this with certain expectations.
These expectations were not necessarily high – I enjoyed the Youtube series and thought the retelling was fun and unique, but I didn’t love it like others did (I had some serious issues with some of the actors – well, acting (surely I wasn’t the only one who cringed at how poorly some of pivotal and most memorable scenes from the book were acted out? It was almost as if the actors felt the weight of the audiences’ expectations’ and just couldn’t quite get it to work) and how the vlog style storytelling narrowed the view) – but they were still there.
I wanted to like this but I wasn’t invested. Not like I was with the original. That’s probably to be expected, though.
Expectations aside, however, I thought this book was actually better than the Youtube series. I know, I know: this wouldn’t even exist without the Youtube series. But that’s the thing: even though this is a companion to the series, it actually gives you a chance to get invested.
Yes, we’re only getting a view through Lizzie’s eyes (it’s her diary after all) but there’s still a lot of stuff going on that never actually made its way into the Youtube series. Sure, Lizzie brushes over certain topics in some of the videos but, really, I never felt like Lizzie and Darcy got enough time to connect to make the whole proposal/love confession/etc. happen. In the show, it just felt rushed and sloppy and misplaced.
Here, though: I totally got it. The same stands true for a lot of other situations as well. For example, when Lizzie goes to shadow Pemberley Digital and spend time with the Darcy’s, we never actually see it - understandable considering how the show was styled and time constraints – but it still loses something in the translation.
Being able to read about it in Lizzie’s diary? It really showcased how pivotal to their relationship that time was. Also how devious (and sweet) Georgiana could be (not a bad thing!).
Regardless, however, I did really enjoy this. It wasn’t perfect – if this was Lizzie’s diary, there’s no reason why she’d recap, word for word no less, certain conversations or bring up obvious facts about her own life that both she and we already knew about – but neither was the series itself. That they had the actress who actually played Lizzie come in and do the reading for the audiobook was similarly a mixed blessing but I digress.
In the end, I think if you were to take the two pieces together – and why wouldn’t you? – this retelling was probably closer to gem than dud but still has a long way to go before it can be called either.