This Side of Married by Rachel Pastan

I’m an easy sell. I read the words “Jane Austen’s honey-and-vinegar spirit is alive and well in Rachel Pastan’s delightful novel” on the cover of This Side of Married, a thin paperback with three single, differently-styled shoes gracing the front, and I had to have it.

It turns out that I agree with the reviewer, Rosellen Brown. The novel has spirit and kept mine flying for the entire day and a half it took me to zip through it. Cleverness pops out at the reader at every bend—details like the shoes, which represent each of the three modern Bennet (aka Rubin) sisters, Jane, Elizabeth, and Lydia. The novel takes modern liberties, but as a result, the parts of the story that can transplant into our era, do so beautifully here in a believable tale that is as much a paean to love as it is a cold splash of reality.

Specifically, I loved that Isabelle (you know who) specializes in reptiles but doesn’t see the Satan disciples all around her, that Mrs. Bennet delivers babies for a living, that Mr. Bennet is a judge (of character and of actual cases), that Mr. Collins is—well, that’s too good to spoil for you here.

I will admit I wasn’t sure who Lizzy was in this tale (though I had suspicions) until the Darcy character entered the scene (just as he does—accompanying Bingley to a party—in the original), but given that she’s married, I was confused as to how all this was going to work. Pastan does not keep the plot strictly loyal to Austen’s—among other changes, Lydia and Charlotte and also Wickham and Collins seem to be fused—but each time a little P & P plot detail comes in, the reader savors it. Almost a “wow—she managed to get that in there!” Darcy’s letter in an e-mail, the first rejection, the learning about previous errors in judgment—it’s all there! I spent my reading time enjoying the modern characters and the story and being impressed by the writer’s cleverness.

I think you will, too.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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