“I decided that as no one else had written Lydia Bennet’s story, I must.” So writes author Jane Odiwe in her latest book, Lydia Bennet’s Story. Presented as a novel interspersed with diary entries, Part one of Lydia’s story retells the now familiar events of Pride and Prejudice through a new heroine’s eyes, adding details which help explain some of her actions, shedding light on the motive behind others. As readers, we are wont to think of Lydia only as one of “the silliest girls in the country.” Ms. Odiwe undertakes to teach us better.
A young teenager in love cannot be anything but thoughtless, but it does not stand that once the first bloom of romance has passed that she may not turn her mind towards the improvement of herself and her situation. It is not impossible to learn from one’s mistakes. The moral of Pride and Prejudice is that first impressions are not the stuff of lasting relationships. Personalities can improve or disappoint on further acquaintance- from knowing one better, their disposition is better understood. This theme is carried further in Lydia Bennet’s Story.
We accompany Lydia to Brighton with the Regiment and there experience firsthand her flirtation with Wickham. Unaware of his past indiscretions, she fancies herself in love with him. A midnight flight is planned and we follow the couple to London, stand with them at their wedding and from there travel with them to their new life in the north.
“As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of her sisters. He bore with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her; and in spite of every thing, was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make his fortune. The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished…Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expences, she frequently sent them. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.”
Pride and Prejudice
Part two begins where Pride and Prejudice leaves off, with the Wickhams in Newcastle and Jane and Elizabeth happily settled at their respective estates. Life has not been kind to the young couple, though it is perhaps what they deserve for beginning so badly. How they find their way towards a better understanding of each other, how the past is brought forward to determine their future…well—it is riveting reading.
New friends are introduced and old ones are revisited with grace and charm. Romances are concocted, and hearts are won and lost against a vivid background of Regency England. Brighton is brought forth in all its gaudy splendor; a whole camp full of soldiers with balls and parties every night. Newcastle becomes a real place, far more than just a northern banishment; a seaside city full of full of merchants and warehouses, shops and gossips. In Bath, all the familiar haunts from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are revisited; the Pump Room, the Upper Rooms, Queen’s Square and even the Gravel Walk, so often the trysting place of young couples.
With an unexpected plot twist the story of young Lydia rapidly comes to its satisfying conclusion. Readers will not be disappointed by the creative way the author brings justice to all. Lydia’s story is thoroughly entertaining. Despite the illicit nature of the Wickham’s relationship at first, readers will find the matter delicately handled with no reason to blush. Lydia’s voice is sweet and lively. Hers is not a nature to be weighed down by care or sorrow. A greater understanding of her nature and situation brings the reader a new compassion for her and an admiration for her overcoming spirit. It is a mature Lydia who writes at the end of the book, “If only I could have shown some control over my actions and curbed my obsession with George, perhaps my own great folly could have been avoided. Well, we have both come to a better understanding of life as a result… though first attachments, it would seem are not always the best”.
Lydia Bennet was, indeed, born to an extraordinary fate, and I, for one, am grateful to Ms. Odiwe for sharing her story.
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Jane Odiwe lives in North London, with her husband and three children. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and talented artist. Her first book, Effusions of Fancy is an illustrated collection of “letters” by Jane Austen. Notecards featuring scenes from Austen’s life and books can be purchased from her website, Austen Effusions.
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (December 1, 2007)
Laura Boyle creates custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and other Regency Accessories for Austentation a Regency Fashion History site and Boutique.