I was a little apprehensive when I heard that Jane Austen’s novels were being rewritten for a younger audience, but Katherine Woodfine has totally honoured the original and this is an utterly glorious addition to any school library, classroom or home bookshelf, I will certainly be buying many copies as gifts! To see one of my all time favourite novels made accessible for an MG audience gladdens my heart.
Firstly, the beautifully produced hardback edition with lovely orange-coloured endpapers featuring the main characters tells you that this is a book to be treasured. The “delightful doodles” drawn by Églantine Ceulemans perfectly illustrate and add to the understanding of the story, with Elizabeth Bennet’s “fine eyes” directing the reader towards the action wherever she appears.
Katherine Woodfine has managed to capture the charm and vivacity of Jane Austen’s masterpiece; has preserved many of the most famous original lines; and maintained the personalities of the characters whilst rewriting to make this accessible to a younger audience. The extremely long and complex sentences of the original have been simplified and Elizabeth’s motivations and thoughts are made explicit to aid comprehension. I have been reading it with a group of Year 5 pupils (aged 9 and 10) in a library club, and they have been spellbound. It is interesting to see their reaction to the reality of the lives that were expected of females in the Regency period and their recognition of Elizabeth’s single-mindedness.
For children who are reading this alone, there are explanatory notes about Regency England and portraits of the main characters accompanied by short biographies at the front of the book. Additionally the end notes by Katherine and Églantine, the short biography of Jane Austen and historical notes on 1813 will all help to contextualise the story.
The lightness of touch demonstrated in Katherine Woodfine’s writing brings the characters alive with their original personalities intact, despite the uncomplicated language. So you are left in no doubt of Jane’s sweetness, Elizabeth’s intelligence, Mary’s misguided pride in her accomplishments, Kitty and Lydia’s silliness, Mrs Bennet ’s obsessions and Mr Bennet’s sarcasm. I could go on, because there is little doubt that every character in Pride and Prejudice has an important part to play in the plot. The complexities of the social class structure and etiquette of the age are portrayed wonderfully and Lizzie’s mortification at her family’s behaviour whilst attending the Netherfield Ball gives a glimpse into the consequences of ignoring the social mores. I was delighted to find that my favourite scenes from the original were rendered with wit and verve and I congratulate the author and everyone concerned for turning a much beloved classic into such an enjoyable MG book.
Highly recommended for readers of 9+, who will hopefully have their appetite whetted to read the original when they reach secondary school.
I am most grateful to toppsta.com and Hachette Children’s Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.