Author: Natasha Farrant
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: The Chicken House
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads
Lydia is the youngest of the five Bennet girls. She's stubborn, never listens, and can't seem to keep her mouth shut -- not that she would want to anyway. She wishes her older sisters would pay her attention, or that something would happen in her boring country life.
Luckily, that something is right around the corner, and it's the handsome Wickham, who arrives at Longbourn to sweep her off her feet. Lydia's not going to let him know THAT, of course, especially since he only seems to be interested in friendship. But when they both decide to summer in the fasionable seaside town of Brighton, their paths inevitably become entangled again.
At the seaside, Lydia also finds exciting new ways of life and a pair of friends who offer her a future she would have never dreamed possible. Lydia finally understands what she really wants. But can she get it?
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m such a big Austen fan that I will literally read or watch anything that invokes her name. Which means that sometimes, I end up watching really questionable films, like From Prada to Nada.
However, I sometimes come across gems like The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennett. Rather than retell Pride and Prejudice, Natasha Farrant has focused in on the maligned younger sister, and crafts a thoughtful, introspective look at the day-to-day inner workings of her life.
Through Farrant’s careful detailing of Lydia’s life via a diary format, we see how the younger Bennett sister actually has many of the similar interests and personality traits of her much admired elder sisters. She’s sweet and earnest, and has a quickness that doesn’t manifest itself in traditional ways.
But because she is restrained by the rules of society, Lydia – like Lizzie, incidentally – has to struggle to fit in. Farrant does a superb jog of dovetailing off of the sentiments echoed in Austen’s original text, by emphasizing Lydia’s desire and wishes – e.g. her desire to travel free, as shown in the excerpt – but how she’s restrained by the life she’s born into.
It is very much a heartbreaking realization that is repeated at a series of intervals throughout the book, and readers will most definitely feel for Lydia, especially as she loses a chance at something that she doesn’t even quite understand. It’s a humbling reminder on the freedom that we also have in our own day-to-day lives, and can lead off into some strong discussions.
Where Farrant really shines though, is her handling of Lydia’s infamous marriage to Wickham. Without giving spoilers away, she turns the decision from one that is made in haste, into an empowering one that will change the trajectory of Lydia’s life. Even for hardcore Austen fans, it is a new and much-appreciated look at one of literary history’s most maligned characters.
Farrant effortlessly captures the spirit of potential in young Lydia Bennett, and we see how she absolutely has the same promise of wit and sense as her elder sisters. But circumstances don’t allow her to fulfill her potential as she may have wished, and we can’t help but gently admire how she chooses to take what control she can of her life.
It’s an interesting twist on a young Austen heroine that has often been overlooked for sisters Elizabeth and Jane, and even the most stalwart of Austen readers will appreciate this sincere and beautifully written reimagining.
Highly recommend, full stop.
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About the author:
I write partly because in my stories I can live the lives I’m not…
I have two teenage daughters, Justine and Lily, who provide endless inspiration for my books. I am pleased to say inspiration works both ways. One of them has dyed her hair pink, and the other has taken to hanging out on the roof in the middle of the night.
The “person” I talk to most is my tortoiseshell cat, Amber. This is because as a writer you spend a lot of time alone, which makes you go slightly mad. Amber repays me for my conversation by trashing my house. Soon we are goig to buy a dachshund puppy called Blue, and presumably he will be equally destructive.
I get very grumpy if I don’t have a good book to read, if I’m not writing, if I’m hungry, tired or don’t get enough exercise. Otherwise I am a generally cheerful person.
Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about my life as a writer.
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