Recently while scouring my favorite used bookstore I happened upon a novella: A Little Bit Psychic by Aimee Avery. The spine was so thin I couldn’t see the tiny print of the title on it in the shadows of the back of the cubby-shelf, and I almost passed it over thinking it was one of those Dover thrift editions of something I already have. But then my Austen-sense started tingling so I reached in to check it.
Beneath the title on the front cover it read “Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist” and the back cover enticed me further with, “Take a humorous journey with Elizabeth Bennet as she travels to London to study for her PhD. Will her strange dreams of princesses and knights hold her back or will being just a little bit psychic aid her in discovering that William Darcy is the love of her life?”
So I bought it.
There are basically three criterion I read my Austen fan fiction and judge by:
- How true to character/plot points/theme is it?
- How good is the story?
- How is the quality of publishing?
On the first criteria I came away disappointed. Using the same or similar character names and maintaining roughly the same relationships of who knows whom and how, does not mean they are the same characters. There were just a few too many character quirks that made them very different people.
And as far as the modern twist?…Not really in my opinion. Modern story, maybe, but not a modern twist to Pride and Prejudice. Unless you want to go with the spirit of “false impressions, mistaken pride and unfounded prejudices” in which case, I suppose, but still not convinced. There’s just something about the modern sensibility of intimacy, particularly how sex factors into relationships that doesn’t just twist, but redefines everything.
As for my second criteria, I have to say I liked it. It is a good story. It’s more Harlequin Romance (with sex) than Pride and Prejudice, but I like those too. If I had found A Little Bit Psychic with no mention of Pride and Prejudice, I still would have read it and liked it much better because I wouldn’t have been comparing it. Its a perfect beach read.
This brings me to my third criteria: the quality of publishing. The cover is cute and attractive. It looks like a beach read. Open it up and the layout is good, no crazy margins or illegible fonts. However, there are quite a few grammatical errors. No grievous misspellings or poor punctuation (those I deem the worst grammatical offenses). Instead there were words occasionally missing from sentences, tense errors that might have been typos, and sentences with superfluous words where there are two ways to say something and somehow they get mashed together giving you “had must have” instead of one or the other.
These grammatical errors caused me to pause several times, forcing me to reread sentences just to make sure I wasn’t misreading. The pace of the story is such that I found myself reading quickly to devour the story, and these errors would trip me up. But then I’d get it sorted in my mind, and resume reading just as quickly as I had before the mental trip.
I don’t know what the official percentage of acceptable errors in a published work is, but it seemed a little high for a novella of 110 pages. That might be a serious detraction for some readers.
Overall, this book did not satisfy the Austen fan in me, or the grammar policewoman I am when reading, but the reader who likes to get sucked into a story…she was pleased well enough.
What do you think are the important elements essential to calling a story an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? What must be there to satisfy the Janeite in you?