I’m a sucker for anything Austen related, which makes me a perfect example of the kind of reader certain authors prey on. When you’re new to the writing and publishing game, what’s the easiest way to get yourself out there? Write what has already been written and adored. It’s a given that your work will at least be read by those already in love with the original idea. Your book might be horrible, but there will still be a handful of people who read it anyway.
This is not my way of saying Messina’s modern adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is horrible. That being said, it wasn’t amazing either. It was just… okay.
It was fun reading another adaptation of one of my favourite books, but there were a few things that made me shake my head in disappointment. Rewriting a famous novel might get you published, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. Yes, you will be fortunate enough to get readers, but those die-hard fans will be amongst the most critical readers you can imagine… maybe even more so than your editor.
Which reminds me… the editing of this novel was lack, to say the least. This isn’t a blog post or fanfiction; YOU. ARE. PUBLISHED. I can always forgive a book with one or two spelling or grammatical errors, but I stumbled upon way more. Hopefully it was just my copy, but that seems like wishful thinking. Simple spelling errors are easy to notice, and they bother the hell out of me. How many people looked over the manuscript? Should be enough to notice a spelling mistake of a common word like the…
But that’s all beside the point.
This is a review of Messina’s story, not the poor editing.
As I said before, the story was just okay. I’ll start with the positives.
I liked the fact that she set it in modern day New York, where Darcy and Bingley are heirs to large fortunes with prominent family names. It’s like getting a glimpse into the lives of the Hilton or Kardashian families. It also sort of reminded me of the hit show Gossip Girl; Darcy, Bingley and her siblings had similar traits to Blair, Serena and Chuck (I won’t elaborate because this connection only makes sense to those who have watched the show. But you get the basic idea- spoiled young adults who are above the lowly middle class, throwing money and attitude around without a care).
I also thought it eas very ambitious to switch the genders of almost all of the characters. Darcy and Bingley are girls, and the typical Bennet family are actually a bunch of boys; Elizabeth is Bennet, Lydia is Lydon, and Jane is John. It was something different that I hadn’t seen before in an Austen adaptation, so I’ll give Messina two thumbs up for that.
And the third thing I really liked was the fact that Messina made Collins a gay man, because it added a subtle humour to the story. Not only did he admit to finding Bennet (Our Elizabeth, for those who are confused by the name changes), attractive, and chose to parade him around Catherine as a potential lover for laughs, but he was also promised to Darcy in marriage. Slightly confused? Well, there is no version of Charlotte in this adaptation dor Collins to marry, and Catherine doesn’t have a child that Darcy is promised to. Instead, Catherine expects her nephew Collins to marry her niece Darcy, despite his preferred taste for men. Just the basic idea makes you think of the Austen’s version of Collins and Darcy, and the ridiculous notion of them getting married… it’s a laugh!
Now, on to the things I didn’t really like about this adaptation:
Even though Mary and Kitty aren’t necessary to the story, I wish they were still incorporated. Yes, Bennet mentioned he had two other brothers, but we never got to meet them.
I also thought their parents would be involved, but they were not included as well. Instead of the overbearing mother and the disinterested father that Austen wrote, we were left with an employer who acted as matchmaker for for the sake of his art museum. It was a smart way to introduce modern reasons for matchmaking (he wanted John to get together with Bingley so the heiress would be a museum donor), but it meant we didn’t get a chance to meet the parents. Maybe they wouldn’t have added much to the story since we already had th employer, but it still would have been interesting to see how Messina incorporated them.
Name confusion is the next problem, specifically with George and Georgia. When you think of George in relation to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you automatically think of George Wickham. But in this case, George is actually Georgiana Darcy, and Georgia is actually George Wickham. Confusing, right? So our female Darcy has a little brother named George, and our villain is a girl named Georgia Wickham. Take a moment to let that sink in.
For the most part I didn’t have a problem with the gender bending. The only change I didn’t really enjoy was Wickham. All male adaptations make his charming looks and friendly manner his greatest asset, and even though Messina said this was the same case with her Georgia, I found it harder to believe. I found Georgia more whiny than charming. Yes, Wickham is supposed to use his tale of woe to win everyone over, but Georgia just didn’t express it with as much ease. She was also much less flirty, but that could also be because she was barely in the story. I think there were maybe two actual interactions with her before everything involving her happens off stage, as described in the theater world.
Bennet’s visit to Pemberley was also very noteworthy. Many Austen readers claim that it’s Elizabeth’s tour of Pemberley that makes her rethink the idea of marriage to Darcy; they claim that money was the true influence, not love. I can’t say if this is right or wrong, because only Austen herself knows her true intentions. But Messina’s adaptation really highlights his notion. Bennet still hates Darcy when he enters her home, and then suddenly he is caught up with the idea of reading a newspaper in a lovely chair in one of her elaborate rooms for the rest of his life. He basically accepts her fortune before he accepts her. The idea that he wants to marry her for her money will flash through any readers mind. Austen handles this scene a little more gracefully, making the accusation much more muddled; it can be argued that Elizabeth didn’t begin to change her mind the moment she saw Pemberley. But it’s 100% true that money was the first thing that changed Bennet’s mind. I wanted to slap this fictional character…
And my biggest peeve with this rendition was the way Darcy and Bennet finally get together. We all love Austen’s ending where the two lovers express their feelings, past, present and future. Our hearts pound as Darcy explains how he fixed things for Jane and Bingley, and how he save Lydia’s reputation. Sure, this rendition keeps this loving confession and explanation, but it’s tainted by numerous interruptions for sex. It cheapens the whole scene! It’s like when your boyfriend or girlfriend only says I love you during sex; does it really count? That scene is supposed to be romantic, not just a moment of lust. FOR TWELVE HOURS they apparently interrupted every meaningful conversation with a make out session or sex! I mean, I guess that makes it.more modern than what was acceptable during the Regency Era, but it also turns the entire scene into smut. Maybe other readers weren’t bothered by this, but I certainly was. Why couldn’t they leave it at the kiss they shared in the office? Why did they have to rave back to Bennet’s apartment? It was just so unnecessary. It’s already implied that they be intimate in the future; you don’t have to shove it in our faces during one of the most notorious scenes in literature.
Austen must be rolling over in her grave.
Just an expression! RIP mighty Jane.
So book babies, it’s clear that I found a great many flaws in this adaptation of Austen’s work. Nevertheless, it was entertaining enough to finish (if it was horrible, I would have tossed it aside many pages ago). So don’t let my negative comments stop you from giving it chance! Everyone has different tastes, so you might enjoy it far better than I did!