Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary is a charming, illustrated re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice in diary form. This is not a fan-lit sequel, nor is it a modern retelling. Marcia William’s pretty book is as a much a scrapbook as a diary, a device which provides an accessible but quite faithful outline of the original plot. Lizzy’s father has given her the diary to distract her from her sisters’ brainless chatter while avoiding distressing her mama’s nerves, and she records her thoughts, drawings, pasted-in letters and keepsakes.
Too few books for older children are illustrated to this extent; flowers, bows and buttons are realistically digitally scrapbooked, and dance-cards, notes and letters fold out. It is beautifully presented, yet my reservations are largely visual, due to indecision about who the book is for. The non-photographic illustration is in Williams’ characteristic style, and while some vignettes pay homage to Lizzy’s hand, others are cartoon strip representations of narrative in a modern authorial ‘voice’. The letters are in a handwritten font, but the body copy is not. Is it a facsimile of a diary or a children’s book about one? The style is accessible to a younger reader, but is that the right or only audience? I was ten when, with a dip pen, I made my own copies of Anne of Green Gables’ letters, but I had already read the book. So is there enough here for a ten year old to invest in, until they are old enough to appreciate Pride and Prejudice? Or would a teenager who has already read Austen think the illustrations childish and want more visual authenticity?
But these are minor ponderings. This is a delightful gift book, and I’ve already forwarded my review copy to a friend’s ten-year-old daughter in Australia.