Review: Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Grey

Jan 27, 2013 by

Yes, folks, Indie Jane’s very own Jessica Grey has finally published her first Austen adaptation and It. Is. Glorious.

“I don’t want to go Mr. Darcy hunting. I only end up with Wickhams.” ~ Attempting Elizabeth, Chapter 1

Attempting Elizabeth is the story of Kelsey Edmundson, a literature grad student who doesn’t know where her life is going. After a bad break up, she is distrustful of men and of herself. Luckily, she finds solace in the pages of her favorite novel, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Kelsey dreams of one day finding a Mr. Darcy instead of the usual Wickhams she gets stuck with.

 

 

But when Kelsey’s roommate and best friend Tori drags her to a party to meet someone new, Kelsey promptly puts her foot in her mouth and almost ruins her chance with Mark Barnes, a hunky Australian teacher turned barkeep-for-the-night, who might just turn out to be her Mr. Darcy.

Mark keeps showing up in her life, however, and he seems willing to give Kelsey a second chance. The problem, as she sees it, is that she can’t seem to be anything but awkward and nerdy around him. She doubts herself. And when she sees a beautiful woman fawning over him one night, she doubts him.

And so, as she always does, Kelsey returns to Pride and Prejudice, falling asleep with dreams of Mr. Darcy in her head.

But when she wakes up something is not right. She is not in her comfortable bed. Instead, she seems to be a drawing room with a woman who keeps calling her Georgiana and referring to a man named Wickham.

It doesn’t take long for Kelsey to figure out that she’s somehow jumped into one of the characters in her favorite novel. At first she’s excited. But as she repeats the same day over and over again, she begins to wonder if this has turned from a delightful dream into some nightmare version of Groundhog Day. This superpower she thought she wanted might not be as awesome as she expected… especially when the real world and a certain hunky Australian starts to look more and more appealing.

Where to begin in telling you about this book? There’s so much to love in Grey’s sci-fi, time travel, book jumping, Austenesque, modern chick novel. The plethora of categories doesn’t even describe it.

Grey has a talent for writing witty, warm female characters (and making them dyed in the wool nerds, too). (For other examples of great female characters, see especially her excellent collection of short stories, Views from the Tower.) She shines here with Kelsey, who is instantly likeable and still frustrating enough at times that I wanted to shake her. (Just admit that you like Mark, already!)

Kelsey is like your sarcastic best friend. On the outside she is proud and generally pretty fun to be with. She appealed to me because she thinks she knows it all at the beginning, but her story arc involves discovering her vulnerability. And she doesn’t have to go through the wringer to do it.

And Mark Barnes, a hunk of an Australian smarty-pants straight out of fantasy land, is a supportive and understanding man. The kind most of us hope to find. But he is not perfect. And that works really well here. Mark makes a great partner for Kelsey.

The greatest strength of this novel, though, is Grey’s ability to mash-up Kelsey’s modern sarcasm and hilarious internal monologue with Austen’s comedy — and sometimes, we learn, almost tragedy — of manners. Kelsey’s attempts to get out of Pride and Prejudice are both funny and desperate. And her thoughts about the “minor” characters in the book will keep you giggling with delight.

But perhaps the best scenes in the book happen when Kelsey lands in Caroline Bingley, a character we all love to hate. The juxtaposition of having to act out the character of Caroline at the same time that she’s at a distance judging her makes for some funny and touching reading.

Even in the midst of building a world around jumping into the novel, Grey successfully maneuvers her characters through realistic emotional arcs. Kelsey, for all her confidence, has a lot to learn about herself. Being able to get into the novel doesn’t magically solve her problems as she thinks it will. She doesn’t fall instantly in love with Mr. Darcy. At times, she is downright mad to be stuck in the book and scared that she might never get back to her real life. And Mark, for all his caring, has a lot to learn about trust.

It’s impossible to describe just how Grey weaves all these threads all together, but they come out looking like a beautiful piece of embroidery.

And the payoff at the end… well, I will only say that it’s a Happily Ever After of the Best Kind.

5 out of 5 Tight T-shirts on Mark Barnes

19 Comments

  1. I have been awaiting this novel for way too long! Ever since the JAMMDI contest! It was a wonderful short story and now I have a chance to the full-on story?!?! *Squee!*

    ps..I loved Awake, too!

  2. Thank you, Kim, for the amazing review! I am so glad you liked it!

  3. Sophia Rose

    I just realized that Jessica finished her novel today during the 200th celebrations. *blushes with shame*

    It sounds marvelous and I look forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing your review thoughts.

  4. Liz Onstead

    I am going to sit down and start reading this on my break (in about 2 minutes xD) and I’m excited to see for myself what everyone has been enthusiastically endorsing!

  5. Jessica Crawford

    I can’t wait to read this :-)

  6. Monica

    This book seems like so much fun! Looking forward to reading it soon. Great review, too.

  7. Nicole L

    This sounds like a fun fun read, definitely added to my JAFF TBR list!

  8. Teresita

    Interesting take on the story. I have added to my list of books to read.

  9. beautiful review! ty for the inspy to add this one to the tbr stack!
    and I also loved the party post w/ all the interesting insights gained in the writing process – TY for that =)

    Congrats on your publication & every wish for cont’d success!

  10. bn100

    Nice review about the characters.

  11. Your excellent review made me add this book to my tbr list. Can’t wait to read it. Kind of reminds me of Lost in Austen and Jane Austen addict books by Laurie Viera Rigler.

  12. Patricia Finnegan

    I can really relate to the plotline

  13. maria

    I think every janeite would love to be transported into Pride and Prejudice. This novel seems amazing, I can’t wait to read it!

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