Book Review

The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub

This was simply delightful. I’ve always wished for Lydia Bennet and Mary Crawford to run away together and be pirate queens. This is not that book – but it’s the next best thing. Told from Lydia’s point of view, the book posits that Lydia is a witch and that her sister, Kitty, is in fact a cat and Lydia’s familiar. In a world of secret magic where every spell has a cost, Lydia must figure out who to trust and how to save Kitty and the rest of the world from ruin – even if it means allowing the world to believe that she has eloped and married that shiftless George Wickham.

Well. That opening paragraph was a lot! Allow me to slow down. Many twists abound in this book that I shall not spoil, but this much is revealed early on. At an early age, Lydia discovers that she can do magic. Indeed, without even trying, she convinces the entire community that her cat is actually a human sister named, conveniently, Kitty. Her aunt takes her on as a pupil and teaches her small spells until Lydia is invited to Brighton, where she is taken under the wing of a more powerful witch and taught more powerful magic. Unfortunately, she also finds that she is obligated by oath to locate a magical item, and who is forced to shadow her until the job is done? None other than George Wickham, of course.

This part of the story is told in flashback as a present-day Lydia copes with the reality of living with Wickham (a situation which is vastly more complicated than Pride and Prejudice suggests), her estrangement from her family, and a mysterious spell that afflicts Georgiana Darcy.

Lydia’s voice is utterly delightful. Here she is bringing us all up to speed. It’s long but so funny, especially the last bit (burn!), that I can’t resist putting it here. SPOILER ALERT FOR PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:

Must I really go over the whole tiresome business again? You already know the particulars as far as the public is concerned. Rich Mr. Bingley came to Meryton; mooned after Jane; Jane mooned after him, Bingely brought the even richer Darcy; Darcy looked down his nose at us all, and set up a year’s worth of trouble by refusing to dance with Elizabeth; Jane and Bingely continued to be moon-calves; the regiment came to town, full of delectable officers, the handsomest being Wickham; Lizzy set her cap for Wickham in the most shockingly forward fashion, whatever she may now say; Caroline Bingely made her brother leave town without offering for Jane, which just goes to show how dangerous it is to pay too much heed to one’s older sisters; Lizzy met Darcy again near Rosings, where he offered for her; having now heard from Wickham what a shocking rascal he was, she refused him; then later, after seeing the extent of his estates, she accepted him; I went to Brighton, married Wickham, and left with him for London, though not in quite so correct an order; Jane married Bingley and became rich; Lizzy married Darcy and became richer, and at some point Mr. Collins was there.

Much as I love Pride and Prejudice, there are a few plot holes, and they are filled in nicely here. Why did Mr. Collins marry Charlotte Lucas, when Mary Bennet would have been a much better match in terms of convenience, family obligation, interest, and (alas) personality? Why does every sister in Pride and Prejudice get at least some interesting characterization except Kitty? Why does Mary King show up and promptly disappear, and whatever did become of her? Why is Georgiana Darcy so odd? All this and more is delightfully explained by Lydia in her caustic, funny, incisive voice.

Lydia’s narration and her substantial and believable character development is what makes this book so delightful, but there are other elements I enjoyed. Lydia describes a world of women in which men play vital but supporting roles. The character of Miss Lambe is a fascinating one, a foil for Lydia’s personality who is, in fact, more interesting than Lydia herself. Although the book is generally a lighthearted-fantasy, the emotional stakes are powerful and the book does address issues of class, racism, sexism – and the fact that Lydia is so totally, unfairly, and tragically condemned for her indiscretions despite being only fifteen years old:

Do you know what Lizzy was like when she was fifteen? She may have forgotten, but I haven’t. She drove the entire household mad for a year. She got hold of the wrong sorts of books, declared herself a Wollstonecraftian, and told our mother that she was repressing her rights as an individual…My point is that every girl of fifteen is trying. I was not some remarkable example of wickedness. Jane and Lizzy grew up, and grew calmer…my mistakes just happened to be the kind that time cannot remedy.

I have a confession of my own and it is that five seconds after reading this book I completely forgot almost all of the plot. Lydia’s comments are incisive and the stakes feel real, but most of the actual plot, people doing things, is fluffier than meringue. Lydia has to find a thing, I’ve already forgotten what or why except that it’s purple: a classic macguffin. Massive events take place that are seemingly ignored or forgotten by the populace. While some characters are layered and developed, others have barely any characterization at all and might as well be called “Evil Dude” or “Mean Girl”.

Fear not, reader, for Lydia gains the respect of many in this book. Would I steer you otherwise? Although the book is set up quite nicely for a sequel (yes, please) it ends on a satisfying, if slightly bittersweet, note. Overall I very much enjoyed this book which paid lovely tribute to the original while doing something very different. I liked the relationships between women, which varied widely in nature as real relationships between women often do. I enjoyed the idea that every spell must be paid for, which resonates with Austen’s constant references to money and class in her books. Above all, I adored Lydia and was happy for her voice to be heard. I hope I hear more of it!

This book is available from:
  • Available at Amazon

  • Order this book from Barnes & Noble
  • Order this book from Kobo

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
We also may use affiliate links in our posts, as well. Thanks!

The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub

View Book Info Page

Add Your Comment →

  1. Msb says:

    Why doesn’t Mr Collins marry Mary? 1. He requires flattery and sops to his ego that Charlotte is willing to provide. 2. The plot requires the Bennet women to have to choose between marriage and penury.

  2. Lisa F says:

    Went higher with this at a Squee/A+. Just one of the best reads of the year for me last year, and I am very tough on P&P retakes.

  3. Kim says:

    Really enjoyed this one. Would probably go A for me. Once it got rolling, I couldn’t put it down for two days. And I also think of myself as sick to death of Austen remakes.

    My biggest complaint was that I felt like the ending felt somewhat rushed, although the plot is all wrapped up. Would have appreciated an extra 5% or so to give the ending chapters some breathing room.

  4. kkw says:

    None of those seem like plot holes to me.
    Mr. Collins comes prepared to marry Jane, who is the prettiest, but when told she’s unavailable, magnanimously settles for Lizzy, although she’s not as pretty, and is so shocked/sulky/angry/whateverdude at being rejected that he’s no longer interested in appearing as a savior to that pack of ingrates, particularly at the cost of marrying the least pretty of them. Talk about bait and switch. They deserve to be impoverished in his estimation! And yes, he and Mary have pretty much the same personality, but that’s rarely appealing to anyone, and couldn’t possibly be in their cases.
    Kitty’s main personality trait is that she’s a follower, and if you’re going to divide teenage girls into categories, the desperate to fit in is probably the best represented of types.
    Mary King is included in the story because she demonstrates that Wickham is a fortune hunter, and as to what becomes of her after she is bundled safely out of his way, presumably she’s pressured to marry someone who doesn’t need her money. If she resists that bargain (or is in fact too freckled to be acceptable to anyone with enough money to be choosy – yeah I am an extremely freckled person who also wears glasses, which is to say, squints. The horror!) my head canon is she goes on to enjoy the life of a wealthy eccentric spinster, most likely a Bath hypochondriac, or maybe she has extensive greenhouses. But Austen doesn’t tell us because that isn’t actually part of the Bennet family’s story.
    Georgiana is odd because she has no friends or peers, so she exists in an isolated bubble. She’s even worse off than her (also notoriously poorly socialized) brother who at least had parents for his youth, a foil in Wickham, and has been to university. She’s like one of those failure to thrive monkeys trying to cuddle a wire cage. Add in the way she was treated by Wickham and it’s frankly shocking she’s as together as she is.

  5. Rebecca F says:

    Kitty being a cat is weirdly common (in that I’ve seen it twice lol). She feels like the least explored sister in p&p reimaginings for a combination of reasons, since a) we don’t get a sense of her as an individual and b) she has an implied happy ending in that Jane and Lizzy are going to find her a good/love match. I feel like you could probably do something with her being a follower/people pleaser in a family of big personalities

  6. catscatscats says:

    Lovely review! Off to download the sample.

  7. Lauren says:

    Thank you for the review and comments. I was originally going to take a pass on this one, but you’ve all changed my mind!

Add Your Comment

Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↑ Back to Top