Wednesday, 16 July 2014

#CBR6 Book 72: "The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet" by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

On the 30th of April 2012, internet geek goddess Felicia Day recommended a new YouTube series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on her YouTube-series The Flog. As a huge fan of most things Austen (I just can't with Mansfield Park, it's so boring), and as someone very interested in modern adaptations of classical works, not to mention willing to trust Felicia Day as I monthly tune in to her Vaginal Fantasy book club, I decided to check this thing out. I didn't really have a lot of experience with vlogs as a medium. With the exception of Ms. Day's own Flog, I hadn't really watched any. But I do know my Pride and Prejudice, and the concept intrigued me.

Having now pinpointed the date when Ms. Day first recommended the series, I can conclude that I started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries with episode 8: Charlotte's Back! I got hooked really early on. At first, there were two episodes a week, and I quickly grew to wait with bated breath for each one. Then I discovered that the creators weren't just doing videos, there were fictional accounts for most of the major characters on Twitter and Tumblr, Pinterest and other social media sites. Vivacious youngest sister Lydia Bennet started making her own video blog, so I got more content. Occasionally, there would be a Q & A video. If I was really lucky, I'd get up to FOUR videos in one week. Mondays and Tuesdays were seriously the best days of my week, because I'd get a new short video showing me the further adventures of Lizzie, Jane and Lydia Bennet, as well as Charlotte Lu. It didn't matter that I knew the source material. The creators, Hank Green and Bernie Su, twisted and adapted the story in such creative ways, turning Mary Bennet into the Bennet's Goth cousin, and Kitty became Lydia's cat. All of the parental characters and non-core cast were portrayed through costume theatre. This made it even more exciting every time a new actor actually appeared in the videos.

By the time they actually showed Darcy in person, with video 60(!), I would probably have given up a limb or at least a digit if that was what was required to keep watching the videos. The show lasted for more than a year, and I watched faithfully for most of it, so delightful with almost all the changes they made to the story. Giving Charlotte a much more prominent role, the way the story arc developed for Lydia - SO much better than in Austen's original. I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and am now the proud owner of the full DVD box set. There was no way I wasn't going to buy this book, and because I loved all the characters, I was unlikely to dislike it.

With The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Bernie Su, the creator of the show, and Kate Rorick, one of the main writers of the YouTube-series, who also writes romance novels as Kate Noble, are able to adapt and modernise the bits of Pride and Prejudice that they just weren't able to fit into the videos. They can show the Bennet parents' reactions to Lizzie turning down Mr. Collins' lucrative job offer, they can relate the awkward first meeting between Lizzie and Darcy at the Gibson wedding. Fans are able to read Darcy's letter to Lizzie after he declares his feelings for her, and she furiously rejects him. As a companion to the YouTube series, this book really gives rabid Austen-fans the full modernisation.

If you're not at least a fan of the YouTube-series already, or you're not all that happy about all sorts of fan ficcy interpretations of Jane Austen's works, then this book is not for you. The main reason I'm not rating the book a full five stars is that some of the scenes I'd sort of hoped to get Lizzie's more in-depth take on (as this is her personal diary, after all), namely episode 60 (where Darcy first appears and declares his love for her) and episode 98. In the story, it's also perfectly understandable that Lizzie may not actually have been able to write down her full feelings about the two events. And the videos are there for all to see. If I were Lizzie, I certainly wouldn't have prioritised writing in my diary after the events of episode 98 - but I'm not her. I'm a rabid fangirl, and I want details! Still, these are minor nitpicks, and I really did enjoy the book. If this whole thing was a bit to TL, DR for you, in conclusion, I would highly recommend The Lizzie Bennet Diaries with all the spin-off videos (all available for free on YouTube) and if you like those, this book.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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