The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family. Lydia Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, not only believed that her mama and papa had most likely stolen her from noble parents, but also considered it a small miracle that they could have produced between them her own fair self and four comely girls – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Kitty – though to tell the truth, she felt herself most blessed in looks. Chapter 1
It was no surprise to me when I discovered that Elizabeth Bennet’s impetuous little sister Lydia had been honored with her own book, Lydia Bennet’s Story, only that it had taken so long for it to arrive on the Janeite bookshelf in the first place. Of all of Jane Austen’s characters in Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet was one of the most intriguing creatures to recklessly flirt and scandalize a family; and for readers who enjoy a good adventure she is well worth her own treatment. In a bus accident sort of way, I have always longed to know more about her, and now we have been given our chance in this new edition available October 1st from Sourcebooks.
The novel can be categorized as a retelling and a sequel since the story begins about one third of the way into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as Lydia’s older sisters Elizabeth and Jane are away from the family home of Longbourn respectively visiting the Collins’ at Hunsford and the Gardiner’s in London. The second half of the novel picks up after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice when Lydia and her new husband George Wickham have moved to Newcastle. Interestingly, author Odiwe has chosen to tell the story by excerpts from Lydia’s journal supplemented by a third person narrative which Austen also employed allowing us the benefit of Lydia’s unbridled inner thoughts and a narrative of other characters dialogue and action to support it. A nice touch since both Austen’s and Odiwe’s Lydia are a bit over the top in reaction and interpretation of events, and the narrative gives readers some grounding for her breathless emotions.
And, reactions and emotions are what Lydia Bennet is all about and why I believe many may be intrigued by her. Just based on the fact that she is the youngest of five daughters raised by an indolent father and imprudent mother, one could be inspired to write psychological thesis on all the mitigating factors in her environment that contributed to her personality! However, what Jane Austen introduced Jane Odiwe has cleverly expanded upon picking up the plot and style without missing a beat. Not only are we reminded that thoughtless, wild and outspoken Lydia is “the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous,” we begin to understand (but not always agree) with her reasoning’s and are swept up in the story like a new bonnet bought on impulse. Oh, to be but sixteen again without a care in the world except the latest fashions, local gossip, and which officer to dance with at the next Assembly are a delightful foundation for this excursion into Austenland that is both an amusement and a gentle morality story.
Even though author Odiwe succeeded in delivering a lively rendering of an impertinent young Miss bent on fashion, flirting and marriage, she missed her opportunity of a more expressive title which should have read something like ‘Lydia Bennet’s Romantic and Sometimes Naughty Adventures’! Not only is Miss Lydia a professional flirt approaching Beck Sharpe of Vanity Fair’s territory, she gets to travel to Brighton, London, Newcastle and Bath and have a few escapades along the way. Her determination to follow her latest flirtation George Wickham to Brighton and then infamously elope with him is renowned. Her unchecked impulses continue as the novel progresses through their patched up marriage and her new life in Newcastle where her husband has sadly grown tired of her and moved on to the next romantic tryst. Months pass, and after visits with her sisters Elizabeth at Pemberley and Jane at Netherfield, the reality of her husbands faults and her rash decision to marry him became soberly apparent.
Wednesday, October 27th
I feel so wretched I think I might die. All my hopes of making George love me have been completely dashed. In my heart I known this is not the only time I have been deceived; the rumours I have heard are more than gossip. Misery engulfs me…I had imagined that life would be so perfect with George, but I now know that my marriage is a tarnished as the copper pans in my kitchen.
No, there is only one way to deal with this problem. There is nothing I can do but forgive him. I am far too proud to have anyone catch a sniff of scandal and am determined to carry in as though nothing has happened. After all, surely most me are tempted at one time or another. The risk of sending him running off into his lover’s arms is great, and I do not want that above anything else. My heart might be broken, but it is not irreparable.
And later, her hopes are entirely dissolved.
Monday, May 2
…There are few to whom I would admit these thoughts, and on days like this, when I am consumed with sadness for what might have been, I find it hard to be at peace. For my own sake, I keep up the pretence that I am giddy and lighthearted as ever; I would not give the world the satisfaction of knowing anything else-in my heart, I am still the young girl who believes that perhaps my husband will realize that he has been in love with me all along and cannot do without me. But, I suspect, my longings are in vain.
How it all turns out for the young lady from Longbourn in Hertfordshire, I will not say. However, I will only allude that the concluding adventure of the most determined flirt to ever make her family ridiculous, might make Jane Austen smile. Lydia Bennet’s Story Adventure is rollicking good fun with a surpise twist. Now that my hope of a novel about her has come to fruition, it can only be surpassed by Lydia Bennet the movie. Imagine what folly and fun would ensue. La!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Lydia Bennet’s Story, by Jane Odiwe
Trade paperback, 352 pages
Leave a comment by October 31st. to qualify in a drawing for a new copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story, by Jane Odiwe. The winner will be announced on November 1st.
- Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story at Publishers Weekly
- Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover
- Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Janeite Kelly at Jane Austen in Vermont blog
- Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Ms. Place (Vic) at Jane Austen Today
- Article by author Jane Odiwe about Lydia Bennet’s Journal at Jane Austen Center online Magazine
- Interview of Jane Odiwe by Ms. Place (Vic) at Jane Austen’s World
- Visit author Jane Odiwe’s blog – Jane Austen Sequels by Jane Odiwe
- Visit Lydia Bennet’s Journal online