Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Our heroine is a 15-year-old girl on a class trip to England. Surrounded by Valley girls obsessed with labels, she buys a pair of red Prada heels in a desperate attempt to impress the A crowd and have everything she every wanted—only to trip, fall, and land in early 19th century England. These shoes, apparently like Dorothy’s shiny ones, have some magical travel properties, except that Callie is not simply dreaming her adventures, though we don’t know that for certain until the end (whoops: spoiler alert). There’s even a later reference to the Emerald City, so we know she’ll get there, even if we don’t yet know how that will happen exactly.

Though Hubbard tries to model Callie after Elizabeth Bennet (in terms of her overconfidence in her first impressions, intelligence, and spunk), Callie falls short of the mark, perhaps because of her age, perhaps because she hasn’t read enough (any?) Austen.  She is far too quick to share her emotions, is rude to her hostess and elder (calling the Dowager “crazy” and rushing out of the breakfast room during their first meal together), makes assumptions about the Duke based on the first of many letters she finds rather than reading all of them (or not reading private correspondence in the first place), and is completely ignorant of the social norms of the time into which she travels (keeps getting confused why everyone is named “Grace” and takes offense when she is introduced as “Miss —“ rather than as “Lady—“). She’s not even completely certain she has travelled back in time, despite the numerous clues. At one point, Callie suddenly wonders, “what if the shoes have something to do with it?” The answer is too obvious to be stated upfront, even if the book is designed for 15-year-olds who, in my experience, are more discerning than that.

Yet Callie appeals to the reader, and to her hero, much as Elizabeth Bennet does. She rallies to defend an innocent stranger, the young child she thinks has been abandoned. (She herself feels abandoned by her father, which confusion I assumed would get worked out by the end of the story, but which definitely got dropped along the way.) And she finds her true purpose when she realizes just how unhappy her new friend, Emily, is. Callie decides she was sent back to help this friend (using ideas about female happiness in marriage from the future), and, with a purpose, suddenly Callie rises to meet my expectations of a heroine (with a few 15-year-old blunders along the way).

Meanwhile, the Dowager has been subject to Callie’s same unfair judgment that the Duke has been, except that, in her case, the reader mistook her, too (thinking her based on the gauche Lady Catherine). The Duke is Darcy, in his younger form, but you’ll get that right away, and the links increase as you get to know him better. After you read, think about who this story’s Georgiana and Wickham would be.

In sum, a quick and easy read (like this review, I hope!) and one that most people will enjoy.

Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 8:06 am  Leave a Comment  

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