Monday, July 5, 2021

Through a Different Lens: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Greetings, commies and fellow Aspies!

This novel should have been reviewed in April - the autism awareness month. As a proud and vocal member of the neurodivergent community, I should really commit to reading and reviewing more works featuring characters on the spectrum. Through a Different Lens by Riana Everly is a yet another take on the classic Pride & Prejudice. It offers an actual clinical explanation for Mr. Darcy's behavior. What would it be like to be on the spectrum before the term autism existed? What social perils did autistic people face in Regency England?


Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the aloof and arrogant Mr. Darcy since he insulted her at a village dance several months before. But an unexpected conversation and a startling turn of phrase suddenly causes her to reassess everything she thought she knew about the infuriating and humourless gentleman.

Elizabeth knows something of people who think differently. Her young cousin in London has always been different from his siblings and peers, and Lizzy sees something of this boy’s unusual traits in the stern gentleman from Derbyshire whose presence has plagued her for so long. She approaches him in friendship and the two begin a tentative association. But is Lizzy's new understanding of Mr. Darcy accurate? Or was she right the first time? And will the unwelcome appearance of a nemesis from the past destroy any hopes they might have of happiness?

My thoughts:

Let me begin by saying that I am not a huge fan of the original P&P. I never understood all the swooning around Darcy. Clearly, there are enough readers and writers fascinated by him to spawn a metastatic plethora of sequels and spinoffs. I picked this particular spinoff because I was intrigued by the original twist on Darcy's character. I commend the author for immersing herself in the world of Jane Austen and her characters, for reproducing their language and customs that may seem so foreign to 21st century readers. A truly titanic endeavor! It is so easy to ruin a novel like this with flippant anachronisms. You almost have to be on the spectrum yourself to become so obsessed by that era, by that social strata, to replicate scenes from their daily lives. 

If you disliked the Lizzie-Darcy pair in Austen's original, you are not going to like them in this particular novel. They have kept their most annoying traits from P&P - and that's what makes their interaction so intriguing and entertaining. The chemistry between them is mildly toxic. You keep wondering how high the toxicity levels will rise before an explosion occurs. 

I noticed that some reviewers criticize the novel as tedious, but the original itself is rather slow-paced. You enjoy this novel, you need to train your attention span and learn to appreciate the slow burn. Remember, the people of that class had plenty of time to reflect and ruminate. 

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