I’m always a little surprised when someone presents me with a Jane Austen variation about which I haven’t even heard, but I was pleasantly so when two former students, Ryan Kuromiya and Jake Zeleznick, brought it to me for my baby daughter at our annual reunion picnic earlier this week. Their comment was they wanted me to “start her off with good literature early.” Though Briella crawled away while I was still reading her page 1, I read it on my own the following morning in the few quiet minutes before another delightfully frenetic day began, and I can recommend it without reservation.
The adapters, Tess Gammell and Alex Goodwin, clearly know and respect Jane Austen and her text. They are also properly humble, giving front of the book space to the guinea pigs who star in the show but not to their own bios or even names, which finally appear at the end of the text after Jane Austen’s and after a wish that readers, if we have “fallen a little bit in love with guinea pigs as well as with Mr. Darcy” as a result of their little book, consider “supporting [a] local rescue center.”
The text itself honors Austen as well, maintaining her three volume structure and keeping as many of the lines as the authors could reasonably fit into this type of adaptation. The structure is consistent and easy to follow: the text appears on the left, formal and eloquent like Jane’s with occasional simpler summary sentences and a small relevant picture of something (e.g. a violin on the page describing the Netherfield Ball or a soldier’s drum on the page introducing Wickham); a photo of guinea pigs dressed in period costume appears on the right with a quotation, either of Austen’s narrator or of one of the characters, unattributed.
The photos are adorable, largely because the guinea pigs are, and I say that as someone not particularly fond of rodents in any shape or form. My favorites included the shot of Lady Catherine in a ridiculous multi-colored costume with hat larger than she is and the close-up of Elizabeth behind a comment on the inability to describe her fine eyes. In the two failed proposals, Elizabeth is higher up than the man and therefore looks like the authority figure.
I missed Mr. Bennet here, but that’s really the only flaw I could find with this charming adaptation. It isn’t really designed for children, but my own may get to enjoy it a little before the general public would (okay, the general public probably won’t be purchasing this text). And you, dear reader, will definitely find it worth a few quiet minutes one morning before the world makes its demands, however pleasant, of you.