Monday, September 28, 2009

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which was originally published in 1813, is a literary classic and most beloved book. There have been a number of modern day stories fashioned around the romance, wit, and tribulations of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, such as Mandy Hubbard’s Prada & Prejudice.

Hubbard’s story begins in London in the 21st Century with 15 year-old Callie, who is on a school trip. Ostracized by her fellow students because of her geeky ways and big mouth, Callie is forced to sit alone in a hotel. The school chaperone will not allow students to tour the city alone, and Callie’s travel buddy, popular Angela Marks, has ditched her for more promising prospects. After being stuck in the hotel for the first few days of the trip, Callie is determined to win herself a spot with the popular crowd. She buys a pair of $400 Prada shoes, something Angela is sure to notice, in hopes of making a strong impression and scoring an invitation with the popular girls to a posh London night club.

However, in addition to being geeky, Callie is clumsy. Only a few feet from the Prada store, Callie gets the heel on one of the shoes caught in a grate and falls head first on the street. She is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, unbeknownst to her, she finds herself in the middle of a forest in 1815. When she approaches an estate to borrow the phone, estate guest, 18 year-old Emily, mistakes Callie for long-time American friend, Rebecca.

With little option, Callie assumes Rebecca’s identify to bide for time while she determines an escape route back to the 21st Century. While a guest at the Harksbury Estate, which belongs to the ruggedly handsome and pompous, 19 year-old Alex, the Duke of Harksbury, she manages to wreak social havoc with her modern ways. Unlike, Emily, Callie has no problem speaking her mind, which comes to a shock for the Duke. Their disputes are both contentious and filled with an obvious sexual tension. Callie, based on the Duke’s stuffy appearance and the discovery of some scandalous letters, is decidedly against seeing in good in Alex.

Callie, while posing as Rebecca, becomes fast friends with Emily, who is resisting an arranged marriage to a man thirty years her senior. Emily’s heart belongs to another, and Callie, firmly rooted in modern day women’s rights, decides to help Emily find a way out of her engagement. Perhaps if she can set Emily’s life on the path her heart desires if will help Callie find a way back to her school vacation in modern day London.

Hubbard’s novel is full of stock characters and touches upon Austen’s original plot. At best it is light and airy and does not seriously address the role of women and status in 19th Century England. However, I do not think that was her point. She wanted to write a story that was light, airy, and romantic. This was accomplished, but still lacks the charm and wit of Austen’s original story. This reader would take Pride & Prejudice over Prada any day.

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