The Exploits and Escapades of Wickham’s Widow
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Lydia Wickham is set free from the confines of her unhappy and ill-fated marriage just three short years after her imprudent and “infamous elopement” to George Wickham. Because of Wickham’s untimely and misfortunate death, Lydia is left to depend on the generosity and sympathy of her relations. While the Darcys bestow upon Lydia an allowance that will allow her to live respectably, comfortably, and independently. Lydia prefers a more lively and luxurious lifestyle. She eschews their suggestions of remaining at Pemberley or returning to Longbourn, and instead makes haste to the country’s capital where she intends to procure the means to live in Paris.
What ensues in the next four hundred or so pages is a succession of spoiled schemes, misadventures, and frequent changes of address. London, Brighton, Bath, Paris, Venice – Lydia does an exhaustive amount of traveling throughout the span of this novel. Along the way she supplements her income by swindling inebriated gentlemen with deep pockets, accepting jewelery and finery from her lovers and patrons, and eventually working as a lady’s companion. No matter where she goes or what she does, Lydia seems to end up in hot water and perilously close to disgrace and ruin. “I have progressed from a living death of boredom at Pemberley to an uncomfortable proximity to the criminal underworld” – page 120. Will Lydia ever be able to escape the scandals and scrapes that surround her?
This, unfortunately, is one of those rare occurrences where I have more criticisms than praises. I love the idea of a novel about an independent and imprudent Lydia, and I greatly enjoyed the vivid and vibrant descriptions the author used while describing the clothing, food, décor, and cities in this novel. But I’m afraid my praise ends there. My biggest complaint with this novel is with the characters. I felt the characters were very poorly drawn in this novel. Lydia, our antiheroine, lacked emotion, substance, and development, Georgiana was peevish and malicious, and Lizzie was vapid and unidentifiable. I may sound like Jane Bennet for saying this, but I was hoping for some redeemable or likable quality in Lydia. Or at the very least, the opportunity to gain some understanding and insight to her character. Sadly, I remained detached and indifferent to Lydia and her plights, and throughout the course of the novel, my sympathies and regard for her progressively declined.
My other quibble for this novel was with the plot – it seemed to be a tangle of debacles, royal scandals, and tiresome card parties. There was an underlying royal mystery/scandal that I found intriguing, but unfortunately, it seemed to remain in the background and was never really satisfyingly resolved. The plot seemed to be in a pattern of introducing new characters, changing residences, and Lydia being forced to do accomplish some undesirable task. I did not enjoy witnessing poor Lydia continuously being used as a pawn.
I would have loved to indulge in a rollicking romp or madcap adventure with Lydia, she is Austen’s wild child and I know she could have been a lot of fun! It is too bad she spent this novel embroiled in the affairs and exploits of others! It is not very often that I say this…but this is a novel I, unfortunately, cannot recommend.
11 out of 30 completed!