If you’re a bookish girl, you’re practically required to love Jane Austen and swoon over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I know there are some of you out there who will be like, “Whatever, I hate Jane Austen,” or “No way, the best Mr. Darcy is Matthew Macfadyen,” but please, not right now. To quote the great Lucille Bluth, I won’t hear it and I won’t respond to it.
You’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of “sequels,” retellings and adaptations of Pride and Prejudice on the shelves (in fact, here’s a list of real and fake ones my brother and I came up with…I’m still upset I wasn’t the one to write Gay Pride and Prejudice). But the thing is, most of those “sequels” don’t really sound like Jane Austen. They take place in the same time period, or they have the same characters, but they don’t have the same voice. But, as librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl puts it, Keeping the Castle is different: “it’s very hard to get that exact wryness and humor and these little tart observations that she makes in Pride and Prejudice. … It isn’t Jane Austen, but it’s one of the closest things to Jane Austen that I’ve read.” And, honestly, if Nancy Pearl recommends a book, you should probably go buy it immediately. That’s what I did, anyway, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Just like Jane Austen, Keeping the Castle has a smart heroine, a prickly-but-ultimately-goodhearted love interest and plenty of interesting side characters. But this isn’t yet another P&P retelling. Although there are many elements that are present in Jane Austen’s works, Keeping the Castle is definitely its own book.
The story centers on Althea, a young woman who needs to marry well (i.e., to a super rich dude) if she wants to keep her mother and her baby brother in their dilapidated castle. Unfortunately, she’s suffering from a severe lack of eligible suitors and two insufferable stepsisters who won’t spend any of their own inheritance to help out the family. So things aren’t going so well until super-babe Lord Boring shows up (is the name foreshadowing? You’ll have to find out yourself). Lord Boring is both rich and dreamy, which means he’s Althea’s dream dude. However, he’s always hanging out with Mr. Fredericks, a guy who breaks everything he touches, can’t remember anyone’s name and is just generally rude and weird. Is he a jerk who ruins Althea’s life, or is he a Mr. Darcy-esque rebel in a waistcoat? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I will say that everything is better if you just imagine him looking like Colin Firth. Actually, every book’s better if you imagine every character looking like Colin Firth. Does that make for a confusing reading experience? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know! I just know that I’m in love with
Colin Firth this book. Seriously, it’s cute and fun and it will totally cheer you up. Also, reading it takes way less time than watching the entire BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
-Schemes! For real, there’s so much schemin’ in this book. Althea’s the master of romantic plots, and she tries to hook other people up and make other people jealous…usually unsuccessfully.
-A dog! Any book (or movie, etc.) is improved with the inclusion of a dog, and Keeping the Castle is no exception. Bonus: in an interview, Patrice Kindl said that the dog is based on her own pet.
-The dialogue! Althea is impossibly witty and her words make the book move along quickly (especially when she’s fighting with Mr. Fredericks).
-A love-hate relationship! As far as romantic comedy cliches go, love-hate relationships are at the top of my personal favorites list–along with People Who Don’t Know They’re Actually Pen Pals, Best Friends Who’ve Been In Love All Along, and Two High School Students From Different Social Groups Who Go To Prom Together.
-If you enjoy Keeping the Castle, you’ll be happy to know that it’s actually the first of three books!
What about you guys? Are you on the lookout for your next Jane Austen-esque book? Have you read Keeping the Castle? How perfect is Colin Firth? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.