Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Review for Lydia Bennet's Story from JASNA


Book Review from the Jane Austen Society of North America - Kelly M. McDonald

Lydia Bennet's Story was reviewed alongside Carrie Bebris' novel, The Matters at Mansfield so I've extracted the relevant parts of the review which concern my book.

A good opening line can instantly vitalize a novel...Jane Odiwe sets her scene exceedingly well: "The true misfortune, which besets any young lady destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family." The two books share many characteristics: they grab the reader from the beginning; sustain momentum; and present work of talented authors. They likewise extract from Austen two bad boys everyone loves to hate,...and pivot their denouements upon ill-advised marriages, for ultimately these men stray from the fold.

Blending narrative with diary extracts, Jane Odiwe presents Lydia in all her giddy, officer-hungry glory. Odiwe's subtle and pointed conveyance of a character's manners or foibles in a few words is a delight - an example, Lydia's asides concerning her mother. While burning an unwanted gift from a potential lover, Lydia comments, "It caught the attention of my mother who is generally not so observant but she has a suspicious nature." Mrs Bennet is seen only through Lydia's eyes, and this manner of characterization is Odiwe's asset, especially when dealing with the popular Darcys and Bingleys. She paints the two couples very lightly, and thereby avoids upsetting the reverence they generate in many Austen fans. Lydia Bennet's Story stands on its own, though the action and characters from P&P are utilized as needed, usually via a few deft references.

Lydia's time in Brighton, among the uniforms she so adores, comprises the early section of the novel; by mid-point she and Wickham have been discovered by Darcy and are wed, though happiness is definitely not on the horizon. Wickham is already on the outlook for his next conquest, and the diary device allows revelations of Lydia's more secret traits. Concerning her move to Newcastle, the new Mrs. Wickham discloses, "What I would really like is a house on the higher slopes of town whre the wealthy are settling, not timbered lodgings in the old part of town." One spouse with a roving eye, the other with illusions of grandeur, spells trouble.

Readers who wish for a little sensuality in their Austen might welcome Lydia's gentle trysts, though one might expect a bit more effort on Mr. Wickham's part for this overt cad to have won his Lydia. His real competition comes from the Rev. Alexander Fitzalan, brother of Lydia's friend Isabella. This pair undeniably forms the romantic center of the novel. Readers will stay up late in order to finish Lydia Bennet's Story quickly and leave well pleased with a nice narrative.

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