WHAT KITTY DID NEXT
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Historical, Retelling — Pride and Prejudice
England, 1813. Nineteen-year-old Catherine Bennet lives in the shadow of her two eldest sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, who have both made excellent marriages. No one expects Kitty to amount to anything. Left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as “silly and ignorant,” Kitty is lonely, diffident and at a loss as to how to improve her situation.
When her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcy’s magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, she is overjoyed. Keen to impress this new society, and to change her family’s prejudice, Kitty does everything she can to improve her mind and manners—and for the first time feels liked and respected.
However, one fateful night at Pemberley, a series of events and misunderstandings conspire to ruin Kitty’s reputation and she is sent back home in disgrace. But Kitty has learnt from her new experiences and what she does next does next will not only surprise herself, but everyone else too.
As much as I love the Pride and Prejudice story, there are so many retellings out there — missing the charm somehow — that no matter how unique and ingenious one sounds, I tend not to be interested. What Kitty Did Next completely blew me away. Instead of retelling the story, it takes one of the minor characters — Kitty, arguably the least defined of the Bennet sisters — and spins out a future for her. It makes her the star of her own story but includes wonderful cameos from all the characters we know and love.
The story is exciting. The plot takes us through all of the period-typical dramas we would expect — dances, misunderstandings, heartbreak and secrets — but I loved Kablean’s characterisation most of all. She manages to build Kitty into a wonderful, complex character that’s incredibly likeable. She also manages a similarly impressive feat with the side characters (the major players in the original) with whom she perhaps doesn’t have as much room for manoeuvring. Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia etc all further rounded out and developed, as perhaps they would be after the events of Pride and Prejudice have taken place. Most have changed slightly, perhaps grown, but they’re still very much the characters they were in the book and easily recognisable. The new characters such as the love interest are all enjoyable, as are the minor characters from the original who are more present in this one, especially the Darcy’s.
Although finding husbands, playing the romance game, matchmaking and that sort of thing were a big part in the novel (which they should be considering who the characters are and when they’re living) it didn’t overwhelm the story. If you’re not a big fan of romance, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t enjoy this book. There is a romance — and it’s a very sweet one — and Kitty does spend a fair amount of time ruminating on potential suitors and matches, but the novel is just as much about Kitty finding herself. It’s about a young woman discovering her own interests and hobbies, improving herself is a person, building new friendships and bettering her relationships with her sisters. It’s a study of family, friends and Kitty’s inner self rather than simply being a romance.
What Kitty Did Next is an incredibly enjoyable book. I’m sure fans of Pride and Prejudice are going to love it, and I really hope anyone who isn’t a fan of the original will give it a try. I would definitely consider this to be the sequel to Pride and Prejudice. At the moment, What Kitty Did Next appears to be a stand-alone (and it definitely feels like a complete, well-rounded story) but I hope that the author will either go back and show us what happens to Kitty as she embarks on her career and marriage, or perhaps takes one of the other characters — Mary and Georgiana spring to mind — who she’s also given interesting new directions to explore. What Kitty Did Next is a brilliant novel, and a perfect summer read. I’m planning to watch the BBC miniseries this weekend and, since this was an eARC I received, I’ve pre-ordered myself a physical copy to keep.
Easily a new classic and definitely a new favourite.