Book Review: The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi

The Bennet Women is set in an American university residence hall amongst a diverse cast of women – Black, Asian and Trans. One of the lovely things about this representation is that these identities do not define the characters. Nor are their experiences used to traumatise the character or reader – we are all aware who they are, it’s constantly in the back of their minds. There is a very satisfying scene where EJ (Lizzy) clearly articulates exactly what life is like as a female engineering student; she views this speech as a failure but I wanted to applaud.

Adaptations, fanfiction “based on” and “inspired by” stories give us an opportunity to wonder “what if?” What if Lizzy was a black woman? How would this identity influence her life, her character, her actions? It’s a delight to revisit characters and plot points with the authors new twist. Lady Catherine seemed to be absent, I only recognised her when she confronts EJ.

A lot of the conflict from Pride and Prejudice is avoided and I like that. I’m not a fan of conflict. The characters actually communicate, they go to therapy, they assess situations maturely (most of the time). It’s a relief to escape the boring trope of characters not being able to be together because “reasons.” This awareness means that Wickham’s grooming young vulnerable women goes from sub text to text, these women are equipped to recognise a predator.

Two plot points were left to drift. EJ and her family don’t deal with the borderline eating disorder she had when she was younger, it’s mentioned then brushed off. They do deal with other reasons she gave up dancing which was a wretch to her younger self. EJ and Will (Darcy) agree to take down Jordan (Wickham) but never follow through, he does get his comeuppance but we don’t get to witness it. The ending drags a little but is necessary to tie up other loose ends. But it must be pointed out that everyone knows Dr Who is not filmed in London (read the book to find out why that’s relevant).

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