Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)In her fourth book in the Jane Austen in the 21st-century series for young adult readers, (and some older adults who are forever young at heart), author Rosie Rushton tackles Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, retelling the story with a contemporary twist. Her teenage Lizzie Bennet and sisters are still hunting for beaus, but with all of the advantages of modern technology: mobile phones, laptop computers and blackberries. The Bennet family always wanted to be well connected. Well, now they are. 

Rushton has been faithful to the original storyline, cleverly transferring the machinations of Regency courtship into the traumas of 21st-century teenage search for romance. There are plot changes, but half the fun is remembering the differences, and seeing her logic in updates. The most significant change is that the Bennet’s are wealthy – nouveau riche – since Mrs. Bennet inherited a bundle from a third cousin. This Mrs. Bennet is still as outrageously unrefined as ever, using her new money to social climb through Meryton’s better families. Mr. Bennet is still an unhappy bystander, but now resides in his music room listening to Wagner at full volume instead of the quaint and quiet 19th-century pastime of reading. The five Bennet sister’s personalities and foibles are all updated cleverly. Lizzie, like Austen’s, is as spirited and outspoken as we would wish her to be, Jane as kind and accepting as ever, Mary/Meredith a fervent ecologist afraid of global warming and food additives, and Kitty/Katie and Lydia are now twins; one wilder than Austen ever could have imagined, and the other unhappy because she is not. I’ll let you sort out who is who! The male love interests play out well too. Fitzwilliam/James Darcy is dishy and arrogant enough to drive a Ferrari and Charles/Charlie Bingley still a pushover. Mr. Collins/Drew Collins is as toady as ever, only times two since he can reach characters by cell phone, text messages and e-mail ad nauseam. There is no getting away from him! All comfortably familiar. Only Charlotte/Emily Lucas and George Wickham were a surprise. I’ll let you discovery why. 

Updating a classic of world literature is a daunting task that Rushton handled with composed energy. Her plot, characters and language was up to the minute, filled with modern technology and cultural references that teenagers (and adults) will identify with. I had to laugh when Darcy’s famous ‘be not alarmed, Madame’ letter explaining to Lizzie his reasons for separating Jane and Charlie and his treatment of George Wickham arrived via e-mail! How else?  There’s also lots of texting flying about speeding up the pace. Certain elements of the original story were omitted, not causing any offense to this devotee of Austen’s works. In reverence to Jane Austen, Rushton began each chapter with epigraph from the original text, foreshadowing the narrative. It was a nice touch connecting the two novels with quotes that any Austen fan will recognize.

Rushton is a British author and this edition has certain colloquialisms that were quite over this Colonial’s head. I do however, have a new appreciation for snogging, Pimms and wankers; — the other words I just guessed at. The novel is split into two parts, and for some reason the second half was not as fleshed out as the first, which made it rushed and thin. My biggest disappointment was that Lady Catherine/Katrina De Burgh was not nearly as officious or condescending as she could have been, and that her final showdown with Lizzie was on the phone and not vis-à-vis, diminishing the significance to the original infamous altercation in the prettyish kind of a little wilderness. No polluting of the Pemberley shades even alluded to. No Pemberley even mentioned in the entire book! 

This was a fast read and great fun. Kudos to Rushton for having the sense not to open the novel with her version of  “It is a truth universally acknowledged.” The cover art is also a lovely complement to the novel. Well done. 

Author Rosie RushtonFour out of five Regency stars 

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton
Piccadilly Press, Ltd, London (2009)
Trade paperback (216) pages
ISBN: 978-1853409790 

Other books available in this series 

The Secrets of Love (Sense and Sensibility)
Summer of Secrets (Northanger Abbey)
Secret Schemes and Daring Dreams (Emma) 

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for February 2009

A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that Austen inspired books are heading our way in February, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)  

Mr. Darcy’s Dream: A Novel. Elizabeth Aston continues with her sixth novel of the entertaining exploits of the Darcy family post Pride and Prejudice. (publishers description) This time out Mr. Darcy’s young niece Phoebe is shattered by an unhappy romance, and retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted cousin Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning the girls’ hearts. As preparations for the ball which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are to give at Pemberley gain momentum, mischief and love triangles abound, making life as difficult as possible for anyone connected with the Darcy family. Touchstone. ISBN: 978-1416547266. Early review by Christina Boyd  at Amazon

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Patillo (2009)Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo. Not a sequel, but a contemporary adventure comedy inspired by Jane Austen’s life. (publishers description) English professor Emma Grant is denied tenure in the wake of a personal scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce. Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn’t as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma’s first love makes everything more complicated. Guideposts Books. ISBN: 978-0824947712. Early review by Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen’s World

Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the hero Fitzwilliam Darcy. If you’re thinking that this angle does not sound new, of course you are correct. A quick count at Amazon reveals five books based on the same premise (and I’m sure there are more). It’s intriguing that authors keep trying to top the last effort, so we shall see if she succeeded. (publishers description) Witty and amusing, this novel captures the original style, themes and sardonic humor of Jane Austen’s novel while turning the entire story on its head in a most engaging and entertaining fashion. Darcy’s Passions tells the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his obsession with the most impossible woman-Elizabeth Bennet. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569756997. Reviews of the self published edition from 2008 at Amazon.  

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)Love, Lies and Lizzie (Jane Austen in the 21st Century), by Rosie Rushton. In her fourth in the series of young adult Austen novels, author Rosie Rushton continues retelling Jane Austen’s stories as she takes the famous Pride and Prejudice and reimagines what might have happened if Lizzie Bennet and her sisters had been teenagers in the 21st century. If you enjoyed her previous Austen inspired novels Summer of Secrets, Secrets of Love, Secret Schemes, Daring Dreams, and The Dashwood Sisters Secrets of Love then you should check this one out too. (author quote)  “Find out what the devious George Wickham, the lush Darcy and the ghastly Drew Collins do to wreck the lives of the Bennet sisters – and let me know what you think about my new ending!” Piccadilly Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-1853409790  

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer. Not Jane Austen, but darn close. Even thirty five years after her death, no one has come close to matching Heyer’s unique and engaging style at the Regency era comedy/romance. Sourcebooks continues in their quest to republish this worthy author and introduce her to a whole new generation of readers. (publishers description) Horatia Winwood is a plain girl with a stutter. When she rescues her sister from an undesired marriage to the Earl of Rule by proposing to him herself, he is thoroughly impressed by her spirit and enjoys watching her take the ton by storm. When Rule’s archenemy, Sir Robert, tries to kiss Horatia, she spurns his advances, and in the ensuing scuffle loses an heirloom brooch. Horatia’s brother’s hare-brained scheme to recover the brooch fails, and then the Earl himself must step in, challenging Sir Robert in a swordfight that is Heyer at her most stirring. Sourcebooks, Casablanca. ISBN: 978-1402217722. Review by  Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf.

Nonfiction 

Bloom's Modern Critical Views (2009)Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, by Harold Bloom. The Bloom’s literary volumes have turned into a major resource on author lives and critical reception. I own the sister volume to this second edition, Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Classical Critical Views and can attest that they are wonderful resources on opinions of Jane Austen. (publishers description) Putting her in elite company, Harold Bloom suggests Jane Austen will survive with the likes of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Critical essays offer insight into Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. A part of our Bloom’s Major Novelists series, this volume is designed to present biographical, critical, and bibliographical information on the playwright’s best-known works. This series is edited by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English, New York University Graduate School; preeminent literary critic of our time. Titles include detailed plot summaries of the novel, extracts from scholarly critical essays on the novels, a complete bibliography of the writer’s novels, and more. Chelsea House Publications; New edition. ISBN 978-1604133974 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics (2009)Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics. This unabridged audio book is read by Donada Peters, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices who has won over a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards. Also included is a PDF eBook containing the full text.  (publisher’s description) When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor—and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status—puts all to right. Written in 1798 but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong, and infinitely subtle in its comedy. Tantor Unabridged Classics. ISBN:  978-1400110780 

Austen’s contemporaries  

Belinda (Oxford World's Classics), Maria Edgeworth (2009)Belinda (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth. Even though Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth were never formally introduced, Austen admired the author so much that she sent a presentation copy of Emma to her in advance of its publication. Edgeworth did not return the complement saying “there is no story in it.” Belinda was originally published in 1801 and is offered in this nicely introduced and supplemented re-issue by OWP. (publishers description) The lively comedy of this novel in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity. Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence. Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. The 1802 text used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0199554683

  • Catch up on previous months of  the Austen book sleuth in the archive. 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann