Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits
By Mary Jane Hathaway
Howard Books, 2014. 314 pages. Fiction.

Shelby Roswell is a Civil War historian at  a small liberal art college, desperate to write an article that will ensure her tenure. Ransom Fielding is a famous historian, visiting faculty member...and the man who skewered Shelby's pride and joy in a national magazine. But as the two are thrown together in the small history department, will they learn to get along? This is a great modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

I can sometimes be skeptical of modern retellings of classics - why read a poor variation of what has already been done amazingly well? But what I really liked about this book was that she was not slavishly attached to the original story. She took some basic story points - their mutual antipathy that grows into respect and even love after they get to know each other; a dramatic family situation that has Ransom coming to Shelby's rescue; a point when Shelby is sure that Ransom cannot love her after what has happened, etc. - and but definitively makes her own story around these basic ideas. I especially like that her characters are not even named Elizabeth and Darcy (or any variation of the names). What Hathaway has done is create an independent novel that is an homage to the Austen original but tells its own story.


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