We were very pleased when a novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice crossed our path. What Kitty Did Next is a continuation, as such, of one of the five Bennet sisters after the close of Jane Austen’s classic novel, whose heroine Elizabeth receives most of the praise from her family and marriage to Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in the end. Her younger sister Catherine on the other hand, or Kitty as she is called by her family, only earns put-downs and threats from her father after her involvement in her younger sister Lydia’s infamous elopement with Mr. Wickham. Accused of being silly and ignorant, what could Kitty do to regain her family’s trust, raise her self-esteem and make herself marriageable? From the title of the book, my expectations were high. How would Kablean turn the floundering duckling of Longbourn into a swan?
Much of the anticipation for the reader is generated by Kitty’s past behavior in Pride and Prejudice. For those who have not read the original, Kablean gives us ample background and character backstory.
Kitty, meanwhile, was just Kitty. A docile child, she had trailed after her adored eldest sisters but they, like many older siblings, had not delighted in her presence and had sent her off to play with the younger ones. Only sickness and prolonged periods of enforced rest had brought Jane, and occasionally Elizabeth, to her bedside, and when she had fully recovered her health Lydia had so far inserted herself as her mother’s favourite that it had seemed obvious that she should follow in her younger sister’s wake and share all the delights and comforts bestowed upon her. Neither commanding nor being the centre of attention, Kitty had become more adept at observing than doing and, until the events of the previous year, had not questioned this order of things. Chapter 6
…as they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet’s carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman’s punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber. The Narrator on Kitty & Lydia Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 39
Misses Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, and their friend Maria Lucas have traveled by coach from London to Hertfordshire, and arrived punctually at the appointed coaching house to transfer to their father’s carriage. The surprise is their two younger sisters Kitty and Lydia who greet them with an arranged luncheon, which they have ordered but can not pay for because they have spent the cost on amusements and bonnets!
I believe that Jane Austen wanted us to be shocked by such capricious behaviour of the younger Bennet sisters unchecked employ, but honestly, I have always been distracted by the fact that three young unchaperoned Regency ladies are traveling by commercial coach from London, and are met by two even younger ladies who have also arrived without a responsible adult in tow! Where are their relations? Where are their guardians? This seems odd, and I am quite sure that if Lady Catherine heard of it, she would pronounce it as shocking news indeed!
Learn more about traveling by coach during the Regency period in this excellent article by the accomplished fellow Janeite and Regency era authority Ms. Place, at her excellent blog, Jane Austen’s World.
*Illustration by Isabel Bishop, “Both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dinning-room up stairs” page 233, Pride & Prejudice, published by E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., New York (1976)