Pride and Prescience
fiction, historical, revisionist sequel(?)
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 7/2/04
Itís hard to believe that someone actually published this book. Itís not a bad book, mind you. Itís just that I find its existence somewhat inexplicable overall. Some of you may have previously encountered my opinion on authors using classic novels as a platform for their own stories. If you havenít, let me just fill you in. Itís not my favorite thing. Jane Austen, in particular seems to be susceptible to this sort of thing. A quick amazon.com search reveals upwards of a dozen books a long these very lines. I have to admit to being both shocked and a little appalled. Iíd known there were one or two but this strikes me as a bit ridiculous.
I confess, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel. And I never particularly felt it needed a sequel. Frankly, most of these books strike me as the worst sort of fan fiction. That is to say, fan fiction that denies what it truly is. I have nothing against fan fiction in general. I have been known to write stories in more than one fictional universe. But fan fiction with pretensions grates on my nerves. To take thisÖtripe, and sell it to the world as if itís legitimate makes me want to scream. For those of you scratching your heads, fear not. My fellow fan fiction readers and writers will no doubt understand.
Nevertheless, I decided to give Pride and Prescience a try and wanted to give it a fair shake. And to be fair, it was pretty good. The characterizations were pretty close, the language tried to match Austen rather than mimic her. The plot was fairly interesting. As a whodunit, it was fairly good. Fairly early on I thought I knew who the villain was but I was never comfortable enough with it to say for sure, which is good. It left me looking for clues rather than simply waiting it out. That, too me, is an excellent quality in a mystery.
But try as I might, I couldnít put aside a few of my preconceived notions. Expectations were not met. I was promised Jane Austen, but I did not get Jane Austen. And therein lies the flaw in all books of this sort. Youíre looking for a sequel and what you get is a spinoff. The two cannot compare. Taken alone, without Austenís work, Bebrisís story cannot stand on its own simply because it lacks the back story that would be needed to make the characters seem familiar and interesting. However, Bebrisís style of writing is engaging. Had I picked up this story as a mystery independent of its associations with Austen, I would have enjoyed it. Bebris does a good job of bringing in historical associations and explanations needed to ground the story for the modern reader. The original characters are interesting, and leave no doubt as to authorís skill in that arena. So why did she take up where Austen left off? Why not use her skills to craft an entirely new world? I have no doubts that she is capable of it, and for that reason, I cannot bring myself to really like this book. I feel like itís laziness on the part of the author.
All I can say is, I hope that this trend fades into oblivion. Fan fiction is for the fans, not the publishing world.