From the desk of Sophia Rose:
Jane Austen’s works have a timeless quality that make them appealing for contemporary retelling. The Bennet Women, by debut author Eden Appiah-Kubi, is a new adult tale inspired by Austen’s Pride and Prejudice centered around the young women living at Bennet House on a private college campus who experience the ups and downs of life and love. We shall see if this diverse offering of modern characters can translate the social conflicts and romance from early nineteenth-century into modern-day.
The Bennet Women opens with the introduction of EJ, the RA (Residential Assistant) of the Bennet House, rushing around on the day of one of the school’s biggest social activities, a dance. The women of the house have gone mad as a result of learning that some famous faces will be seen there and EJ has been putting out fires. She’s excited to dress up and cut a rug at the dance with her friends. But, then after squeeing over the arrival of a surprise guest, she is deflated when an arrogant guy who happens to be the friend of her bestie’s new guy insults her looks and looks down on her, her friends, and their favorite places. But, then her first impression gets a jolt when he shows a different side. Too bad someone is infiltrating the group to stir things up.
Next, Jamie is introduced when she frets over the beautiful, expensive dress her mom sent her to wear to the dance when she already has a killing jumpsuit outfit. Excited to meet an amazing guy at the dance, sweet-tempered Jamie can only marvel at her luck at starting up a new romance with the fun-loving Lee who seems perfect for her.
Meanwhile, Tessa, their Bennet House renaissance gal is stuck in a dead-end toxic relationship with Collin, but she’s there for EJ and Jamie.
Will Pak is a wealthy, successful Asian actor who just wants to bury himself in his last year of study toward his BA on this quaint New England college campus and hope nobody brings up his colossal break up with Carrie. Will is morose and discovers that he has made himself odious rather than coolly aloof, but particularly to Lee and his new friends including EJ who he finds interesting. He might find way more than he’s bargaining for if he can start over with EJ and work through someone’s cunning deceitful plan against him.
With multiple narrators—EJ, Jamie, Will, Tessa—The Bennet Women has a larger cast multi-faceted feel since each character’s perspective is unique to them. I ended up needing to see the story through each of their eyes to better engage with the plot. The characters and I, and even the romances, were at arm’s length much of the time.
I think my biggest challenge with this story was a combination of the writing style and my need for the plot and characters to be more developed, I will also admit that this is so cutting edge 21stt century that I felt out of step with these fresh young women and men. Nobody wants to admit they’re past it, but yeah, I felt that age gap particularly when the many cultural entertainment references that slid right on past me like an unknown foreign language. Still, I think it was a good experience to push me out of my comfort zone and see what a different generation is thinking and feeling though the college campus life, and at an all-women’s dorm, were not entirely unfamiliar to me.
So, I felt that distance, yet the story and the lives of this group pulled me in. I loved rooting for EJ as she worked so hard on her bridge plan project to get picked to deliver a presentation on environmental engineering to the black engineer’s group and make her dad proud, Seeing Jamie experience happiness and acceptance after getting the slams and phobic business for being a newly out Trans gal. And oh yeah, Tessa needed to dump that toxic Collin. Like with the original Darcy, Will Pak has a tough, growing experience when his life was derailed and he had a new start.
The book was a quick read and I was done before I realized it. I have to admit that a few times I forgot this was associated with Pride and Prejudice. It had those vibes here and there, but it was not a strongly connected retelling, or even variation. Those who are looking for a tight one to one correspondence in the plot and characters won’t find it, but Austen isn’t utterly absent, either. Let us say, it has a P&P flavor.
In summary, this post-modern take on the Pride and Prejudice by debut author, Eden Appiah-Kubi, was lush with diversity, inclusiveness, woman power, and college life. it was a good look in on the college age women of today that gives a respectful nod to an author from the past who led the way while providing a quick tale of friends and romance on a college campus. This won’t be for all the Austen lovers and those unfamiliar with P&P need not worry about knowing the plot of the original story to pick up this mash of contemporary new adult romance and women’s fiction.
3 out of 5 Stars
- The Bennet Women, by Eden Appiah-Kubi
- Montlake (September 1, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (365) pages
- ISBN: 978-1542029179
We received one review copy from the publisher as an Amazon Prime member. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.
Cover image courtesy of Mountlake © 2021; text Sophia Rose © 2021, Austenprose.com