Carrie Bebris: Pride and Prescience

Pride and Prescience has an audacious conceit: not only is it a sequel to Austen’s immortal Pride and Prejudice, it re-imagines Lord and Mrs. Darcy (née Bennet) as amateur sleuths. An interesting kernel underlies this (and perhaps lessens its outrageousness) — both Austen’s novels and traditional English “village” mysteries deliberately limit the scope of their settings, and thereby sharply limit the dramatis personae.

Pride and Prescience owes at least as much to the gothic novels of Anne Radcliffe as to Austen (with several unambiguous nods in the direction of Brontë’s Jane Eyre to boot). But Bebris doesn’t play for broad laughs; if Elizabeth Darcy finds herself in a stereotypical Gothic novel circumstance — in a drafty, Stygian hallway, overhearing strange sounds, say — she reacts naturalistically, and Bebris doesn’t club the reader over the head with the echoes of other novels.

In general, it’s surprisingly successful. The mystery is fairly satisfying on its own terms, with several well-laid red herrings, although some purists might well feel that that the dénouement doens’t quite play fair. Bebris adopts a prose style that blends 19th- and 21st-century stylistic conventions; the vocabulary is mildly high-falutin’, and some of the sentences aspire to Austen’s elaborate, graceful structures and sly reversals, but there are also short declarative sentences (and even fragments) to nudge things along for the modern reader. The copy-editing seemed much more competent than in several of the other books I’ve read recently; I noticed a few descriptive words repeated in close proximity, but didn’t trip over any real clunkers. Darcy and Elizabeth seem a tad modern in some respects — their private conversations are more frank than I think Austen would have ever imagined — but they are also convincingly rendered as members of a society quite different from ours (especially in their attitudes toward the servant class).

Overall I enjoyed it, and will read more in the series.

needs more demons? negatory.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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