Books

Wishing Doesn’t Always Wound the Heart: A Review of The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet Kate Rorick Rachel Kiley 2015The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet

Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley
Touchstone
September 29, 2015

For all of the vitriol thrown her way, Lydia Bennet is not a figure that looms large in the original Pride & Prejudice. True, her actions do drive her sister Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy closer together as they work to “save” her reputation, but we actually know very little about the girl her family discusses so callously at times.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet aims to continue the work of parent webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in novel form, giving a voice and platform to Lydia’s enthusiasm and insecurities alike. Lydia was a strong presence from the first episode, often taking the spotlight from her sister with ease. It was a tension between the young women that was addressed rather dramatically in the show, and Epic Adventures explores the aftermath of that tension as Lydia tries to rebuild her life and self-confidence.

Overall, it’s a stronger novel than The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet, because it doesn’t feel as much obligation to the series. Secret Diaries was pretty much a rehashing of the webseries, with many of the same layers as the original novel. We don’t learn anything vastly new or different from Lizzie. Lydia carries the story in prose far more deftly than Lizzie did, her penchant for sharing every detail a boon instead of a curse in this novel.

The structure of the novel is episodic, keeping the pace familiar to viewers of the webseries, but also allowing us to see how Lydia moves through her life post-George. Lydia learns a very hard lesson, one that everyone struggles with at one point or another: it’s okay to be wrong. What George did to her was horrible, and no one deserves to experience what she did, but there is a part of Lydia that still blames herself for being wrong about George. The novel follows Lydia as she deals with the self-doubt that comes so easily to her.

There’s a tentative quality to her sentences that reflects the uncertainty she feels about herself and her choices—Lydia asks a lot of questions of herself and the people around her. It’s an understandable effect of the trauma she’s experienced, and for a girl who cares so deeply for how people see her, that uncertainty is amplified, sometimes tipping over into paranoia. I can’t blame her, after what the destruction George wrought in her life.

Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley not only maintain Lydia’s voice, but enhance it in the novel. Lydia was a larger-than-life presence in the webseries, but here, with just over 300 pages to mull over people and interactions, she seems to be building a foundation for the woman she will be. That woman will make mistakes, and it was ultimately gratifying to still see Lydia trip up, so that she learns that it’s okay to fall sometimes. As much as fans, myself included, may hope that she finds only happiness, Rorick and Kiley make the conscious choice to make Lydia’s life reflective of what it’s like to be 20-something and confused, and still be an adult, with all the expectations and responsibilities of that stage in life.

It’s an insightful choice, and it shows that the authors understand and appreciate their protagonist for all her foibles and quirks. In Rorick and Kiley’s hands, Lydia is no longer the easy joke, the contrast to Elizabeth Bennet’s more practical temperament. She becomes a woman in her own right, with a history and a future that she controls.