By Simran P. Gupta
Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” has been reincarnated many times throughout literary and film history with varying results. Some choose to stay away from these iterations to preserve the voice of our beloved heroine, Lizzy Bennet, and the infamous wit and subtle criticism of Jane Austen.
Others throw themselves headlong into the project of an Austen rewrite, or homage, and this is what married, debut authors Jonah Lisa and Stephen Dyer have done with their novel “The Season.”
If one categorizes the novel as “Young Adult,” it must be put into the niche of “older YA” for its content. Indeed, “The Season” is not a cutesy, middle grade rewrite. Instead, it features a tough, emotionally strong heroine who proves doubters wrong.
It explores class, femininity, old society, and tradition. Naturally, a “Pride and Prejudice” rewrite is the perfect vehicle to examine these topics. The genius of the authors is that the skeleton of this novel is very much “Pride and Prejudice.” The meat of it, however, is original.
The story takes place in Texas, on the Aberdeen ranch. This is the novel’s version of Pemberley; it has been in the family for generations but is in danger of being sold off, because Mr. McKnight can no longer afford to support the family by ranching cattle.
In an effort to help their family’s economic situation, Mrs. McKnight spontaneously signs her daughters up for the “Bluebonnet Debutante Season.” Over the course of three or four months, the McKnight sisters, along with a handful of other girls, will learn etiquette and the ways of high society, culminating at the Debutante Ball. The lady who exemplifies the highest level of grace will be chosen as the Bluebonnet Debutante; along with the prestigious title comes a large monetary prize.
So begin the mishaps of our Lizzy Bennet; named Meghan McKnight in this reincarnation.
She is quick-witted, strong, independent, and fiercely loyal to her beloved sister, Julia. She is also constantly at odds with her mother, whose motives she does not understand (part of her growth as a character is seeing eye to eye with her mother and strengthening their relationship).
This heroine shoots guns and can throw a punch, but does not lose the Austen touch to her character.
Julia McKnight is Jane Bennet reborn; she is soft-spoken, beloved, beautiful, and on much better terms with their mother. Julia even meets her Mr. Bingley, named Zach, and Meghan goes through her ups and downs with the novel’s Mr. Darcy: Andrew Gage.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the novel was watching the relationship between Meghan McKnight and Andrew Gage progress; it borrowed the best aspects of Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s (in fact, the trajectory is almost identical) while also updating it for a 21st century audience.
Wickham makes his appearance as well. If it’s possible, he’s even more infuriating this time around.
The Dyers have done a wonderful job fleshing out their characters as inspired by Austen’s original, while giving them each an individual spark.
The English major in this reviewer was also pleased by the glimpse into the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. McKnight. In “Pride and Prejudice,” little rationale for the Bennets’ marriage is given other than her looks and his money. In this retelling, readers learn that Angus McKnight was the wild card- Lucy was already engaged to a well off oil man, and broke the engagement off for our updated Mr. Bennet.
Their relationship, arguments, and even Lucy McKnight’s character is given more depth and background. Though we start off disliking her for forcing Meghan to be a debutante, readers will leave feeling good about her commitment to her daughters and to her marriage.
Theoretically, pages upon pages could be written gushing about this new take on “Pride and Prejudice.” Suffice it to say, picking up a copy is worth it. The Southern culture and tradition mixed with tough girl wit makes it the perfect update on a beloved classic.