The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet aren’t quite as epic as one might expect, but to be fair, this is a new Lydia, not the wild party animal that we were first introduced to at the beginning of the YouTube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD), a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. After the show’s paramount success (and Emmy win) alongside the well received companion novel The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, fans of the LBD universe wanted closure for the unlikely fan-favourite character, and Pemberley Digital delivered it.
The story takes place a few months after the George Wickham scandal. Lydia is now in counselling, finishing up courses at her local community college, and has plans for a future career. Although her adventures aren’t the ‘epic’ we’d come to expect of her, readers are taken on a different type of epic adventure with Lydia’s self-discovery and further personal growth. She’s still recovering from the heartbreak and betrayal, lost in a “why did this happen? Why did he do it?” state of mind. Of course she’s wondering how George could have taken advantage of her and tricked her into making a sextape, but she soldiers on. Readers get a peak into her counselling sessions, college life, and even a trip to New York City, all while trying to figure out her life.
Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley, from the LBD writer’s team, did a commendable job in their storytelling. The mixture of introspection and Lydia’s interactions with a wide range of characters make for a compelling narrative. It is easy to sympathize with her, and even relate at certain points. Lydia faces issues with family, frenemies, prospective love interests, and ultimately, disappointing herself and learning how to move forward with all her different mishaps. It’s a wonderful journey to take with her as she discovers her own faults and finally gets the closure she deserves.
There is a handful of cameos and mentions of the rest of the LBD characters, though it’s hardly worth mentioning them. Although Lydia is written beautifully, the other characters fans love come off as flat, even Lizzie. Additionally, the plethora of new characters don’t appear to have any Austen ties from what I could tell and came off as one-dimensional too. So many new characters are introduced that it becomes hard to keep track of them. A standout though was cousin Mary (remember her?). She has a prominent presence in the story that is both satisfying and enjoyable as she serves as the perfect foil for Lydia.
Admittedly, I listened to the audio version of the novel, since I moved across the pond for school before the books shipped. The audio version is a treat since it’s narrated by Lydia herself: Mary Kate Wiles. Her voices for both familiar and new characters have a fairly good range, but Lydia’s voice is different in the novel than what I’ve become accustomed to in the show for most of the story. I take that this is a subtle indication of Lydia’s transformation, since a few sentences come out in Lydia’s old cadence, but I miss that voice. It just didn’t completely feel like Lydia while listening.
Fans of the LBD who became invested in Lydia’s story will definitely enjoy this read, regardless of its flaws. It didn’t leave me the most satisfied, but I was more than happy to tag along for the ride. For those who are bigger fans of “Dizzie” and “Jing”, the novel doesn’t significantly add to Lizzie and Darcy’s romance, but we do get brief insight into how Jane and Bing’s relationship is going. Even for those not familiar with the LBD, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet is a great coming-of-age story that’s definitely worth a read, though it’s best to watch the entire show first.