Monday, August 27, 2012

Austen & Reality TV

So, I recently read an ARC of Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fales-Hill, which revolves around Jane Austen & the world of reality television.

I have to admit, the cover is pretty awesome.
The book, on the other hand? Not as enjoyable as I wished.

I knew that the book would somehow involve the concepts of Austen & reality TV, but was a little fuzzy on the details of how these ideas would be combined.

Warning: this blog post will probably be spoilery.

So, Imperfect Bliss is an Austen adaptation - a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. The Harcourt family lives in Maryland. Bliss is the Elizabeth equivalent in this novel, a recent divorcee who is still in love with her ex-husband and is raising a special needs toddler named Bella (whose name constantly reminded me of Twilight - probably not the connection Fales-Hill wants to draw) while simultaneously working on attaining her PhD.

Her family, with just enough money to afford a tiny house in their affluent neighborhood, is further ostracized from the community by racial tension (Mr. Harcourt is an Englishman, while his wife is a native of Jamaica).

Bliss and her other 3 sisters are all beautiful (Mary's character has been eliminated); Bliss and her older sister are close and consistently mortified by the behavior of the female constituents of the family. The two younger sisters are fairly silly - one of them is a prissy golddigger intent on marrying her way to a comfortable life, the other is slatternly and her need for attention seems to foretell impending doom (which consists of a sex tape, kind of a let down after all of the build-up, to be honest. & by kind of, I mean completely).

Diana, the prissy younger sister, starts the novel's action by announcing that she is going to be the star of a new reality TV show entitled "The Virgin," which makes her mother inordinately proud, and promises her the fame and fortune that she desires.

The parents in this novel were well done - the mother is completely ridiculous (who, after all, would be proud of their daughter for having a medical exam and subsequent certificate proving and subsequently proclaiming her virginity?), but reasons and rationale are given so that the reader doesn't absolutely hate her (and so she seems more like a human being); the father is often disinterested, a fact that is not glossed over, in the slightest, and points out one of the biggest critiques of the Bennett family in P & P.

Bliss is kind of boring. Her situation is pitiable, but she's just not a likable character. She has the prejudice down, but her judgmental attitude is not tempered by the steady wit and humor that make Elizabeth one of the most beloved characters in literature. Her Mr. Darcy is glaringly obvious, yet does not seem exceedingly prideful, and frankly, seems too good for her.

Overall, this novel was predictable and interesting enough to read, but also slightly boring. I would rate this item as a brontosaurus - it seems like a really awesome find when you first hear about it, but turns out to be fraudulent and really just ruins The Land Before Time.

Is nothing sacred?

This book was received as a reviewer copy, free of charge. It was released in July, and is therefore now available for purchase. The ideas in this review and my opinions of it are wholly my own.

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