Sunday, March 19, 2006

'Conviction' by Skylar Hamilton Burris

Reviewer: Stephanie C.

TITLE: Conviction: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
AUTHOR: Skylar Hamilton Burris
PRICE: $13.95
GENRE: Romance/literary
ISBN: 1-58939-597-2
PUBLISHER: Virtual Book Worm

It's one thing to judge a novel on its own merits, but quite another to stand it up against one of the most well-loved satires of the last two centuries. However, Skylar Hamilton Burris' novel can hardly escape this fate, being as it is a POD sequel to none other than Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

In the introduction to Conviction, Burris openly acknowledges her inability to sufficiently mimic Austen's "unique and superbly subtle wit" and it's to her credit, I think, that she takes the liberty of writing in her own style. Consequently, Conviction straddles an obscure boundary between fan fiction, Regency drama and intertextual exploration. The result is something closer to a Georgette Heyer novel than an Austen satire—but this is by no means an unworthy fate.

Conviction opens some six months or so after the wedding of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and the reader is immediately confronted with Georgiana Darcy's "creative plots for thwarting unwanted suitors". While Mr Darcy and the former Elizabeth Bennet feature quite frequently as part of an extensive supporting cast, Burris resists the temptation to indulge in the details of their relationship. Instead she chooses to focus on the romantic aspirations of Kitty Bennet and young Georgiana, and introduces an array of original characters that put new expressions on those much-loved faces.

While occasional bursts of cringe-worthy romance threaten to punch holes in the bottom of this gently lilting society drama, it manages to steer clear of anything that looks too much like fan fiction. The proofing errors are trifling; the language has a period feel without being pretentious or incomprehensible and while the characters lose something of their original shape, they aren't necessarily changing for the worse.

So how does Conviction stack up against Pride and Prejudice? Well, that depends on why you read Austen in the first place. Much of the social criticism and satirical edge is blunted here, although marriage and money still remain central to many of the characters' motivations. Similarly, anyone picking up Conviction to indulge their soft spot for Darcy and Lizzy may be expect to be somewhat disappointed. It's a tough call, because any kind of adaptation may be automatically tainted in the view of hard-core Austenites, but if you can hold the original at arm's length, you may just find yourself enjoying the romantic romp that Burris has offered. I did.

RATING: 7.5/10

9/10: Amazon
POD-dy Mouth


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