Sunday, July 13, 2014

Back to the Land of Lizzie: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Touchstone, 2014

Here we have a book based on a web series that is a modern adaptation of a classic novel. Sounds a bit meta, but trust me, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet still works and can stand on its own as the latest in a long line of homages to one of the greatest works of fiction of all time.

Lizzie Bennet is a 24 year old grad student studying mass communications and living at home with her parents in a small town in California. The video diaries she talks about start innocently enough (they fulfill the requirements for a project), but soon take on a life of their own. The vlogs showed hundreds of thousands of people Lizzie's views on her older sister's love life, her families financial struggles, her little sister's partying, and the eternal grumpy hipster William Darcy, but the videos didn't show the whole story. Lizzie's diary digs more in depth to what was happening when the camera was off.

While the book definitely serves as a companion to the Emmy-award winning web series, it does have what it takes to stand on its own if you're not up to watching the 9 hours of video/over 100 episodes that came out over the course of a year. You also don't have to have read or be a fan of Jane Austen's original work Pride & Prejudice to enjoy this book or understand what's going on, though I do believe there's an extra layer of richness if you are at least familiar with both the book and videos. This is a contemporary young adult story that serves as evidence that many of the issues people faced in the 1800s are still around today in one way or another.

One thing I will say about the book since I am such a fan of the web series was that the decisions Su and Rorick made to fill in those "behind the scenes" gaps differed a lot from the head cannon I'd built up over the course of the year of watching Lizzie's videos. Characters made choices that felt foreign to me, sometimes for the better, other times making me feel like I must have been watching a totally different show. For that reason, I view the book and vlogs as two very separate things. Like with any book/film adaptation, things will never line up perfectly for fans of the original.

This novel is a fun addition to the Austen universe, and I enjoyed it for what it was. If you didn't get enough of Lizzie Bennet before, then this novel is definitely worth checking out.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube

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