Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

 I bought myself this book, as a pre-order, as a reward for successfully escaping my first Final of this past Quarter relatively unscathed. Despite the rather agonizing weeks of waiting before it finally came out, I couldn't be more happy with this purchase... as a diehard fan of the series. 

There's no possible way for me to have hidden from you all my deep and abiding adoration for all things Austen, with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries being a recent cultural fixture of mine, with its sister series, Emma Approved, being an ongoing one, as well (with past Thursday's episode taking on the cringe-worthy, ill-fated Box Hill excursion and the classic "Badly done, Emma" in a perfectly updated fashion). 

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, written by show writers Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, attempts to fill in the blanks a little bit... and by blanks, I mean the agonizing voids left between the times of upload every Monday and Thursday during the show's production. For those not in the know, the web series was a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's swoon-inducing classic, Pride and Prejudice; it's heroine, the witty and critical Elizabeth Bennet, transformed into webhead graduate student Lizzie, who embarks on a vlog documentation experiment for use in a thesis project, who soon finds that the topics she talks about how real world consequences for herself, her family, and one Mr. Darcy. 

A hallmark of the success of the webseries was its impeccable multimedia integration, updating Twitter in real-time alongside the videos from the points of view of various characters, and now, with Emma Approved, manning a fashion blog alongside it, as well. The novel attempts to reference, as well as capitalize, once again, on this integration, by linking to the episodes through its web-enabled eBook editions, and "documenting" some of the media themselves in the book. This is where it gets a little tricky. 

See, the claim is made that you can read the book without having to watch - or ever have watched!- the videos; however, some very crucial moments in the narrative are captured on film alone, so demonstrated by the fact that scripts of some of those moments are substituted for further elaboration, with transcripts of dialogue for the episodes standing in for Lizzie's personal narration. 

While this only happens in one or two places - barring the occasional and much-enjoyed glimpses of web-viewed "Lizzie-ism"s and favorite pieces of dialogue cropping up in the journal writings, as well - it is a little annoying for long time viewers (I don't know about y'all, but I certainly haven't been re-watching Episode 98 all this time for the "illuminating" dialogue). 

However, I understand their status as being integral to the story line, and Bernie Su himself did some explaining of the creative choice in a recent Reddit AMA. Overall, it is very apparent that such close cohesion between the beloved show and the new novel came through a lot of deep thinking about why the fans loved the series, and decisions were made to best benefit that. 

Final Verdict: For diehard fans of the show, this is an overwhelmingly essential purchase (More Charlotte! More Lydia! Both of which add more depth and interest to characters that didn't necessarily make a more dimensional splash on the webseries). For everyone else, I'm going to turn you to the videos themselves... give it a day or two, and you'll be diehards, as well. 

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