I suppose if this were a proper book I’d begin it something like, “Miss Lydia Bennet, youngest of five daughters to a father hopelessly entailed, had few advantages in life, but not too few to squander.”
LENGTH: 400 pages
GENRES: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Fiction
PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing
RELEASE DATE: 3 October 2023
A sparkling, witchy reimagining of Pride and Prejudice, told from the perspective of the troublesome and – according to her – much-maligned youngest Bennet sister, Lydia.
In this exuberant retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet puts pen to paper to relate the real events and aftermath of the classic story. Some facts are well known: Mrs. Bennet suffers from her nerves; Mr. Bennet suffers from Mrs. Bennet, and all five daughters suffer from an estate that is entailed only to male heirs.
But Lydia also suffers from entirely different concerns: her best-loved sister Kitty is really a barn cat; Wickham is every bit as wicked as the world believes him to be, but what else would one expect from a demon? And if Mr. Darcy is uptight about etiquette, that’s nothing compared to his feelings about magic. Most of all, Lydia has yet to learn that for a witch, promises have power…
Full of enchantment, intrigue, and boundless magic, The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch, has all the irreverent wit, strength, and romance of Pride and Prejudice–while offering a highly unexpected redemption for the wildest Bennet sister.
This was my first spell. I thought nothing of it at the time. All small children think they can control the world around them.
Before I start, I myself have a bit of a confession to make: I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I’m not much interested in Jane Austen at all. The only book of hers I’ve read was Sense and Sensibility, and I didn’t much care for it. So, I’ve not read much of her work, and I honestly have little interest in it due to that which I have not really being my kind of book.
So why did I decide to pick this one up and give it a shot? you might ask. The answer is simply: Magic and witches and retellings. I love all three very much, and especially retellings. Usually I go for classic fairytale ones, but I’m always up for a classic anything retelling.
So, I decided to try The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch out. I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it. Of course, it was written in such a way to mimic the writing and prose of the time, which is something that I’m normally unsure about, but I was determined to read it so I’d psyched myself out about it. And yeah, as I just mentioned, I liked it quite a bit.
But I’ll stop rambling on about this and get into the review proper. I’ve gone on long enough, after all.
• The characters ▼
I spent the evening on my mother’s lap, being squeezed and kissed and lamented over, while my sisters petted and caressed me and brought me sweets and bits of ribbon.
The next day, I threw myself in the creek again. Well, what did they expect? A good thing witches float.
Even though she irritated me quite a few times, I really enjoyed Lydia Bennet and her narration. Sure she was incredibly naive and made many irritatingly stupid decisions, but as this book is technically an epistolary novel (actually it definitely is, fight me) it had a present Lydia looking back at the past, particularly her past actions. A character looking back at herself, and calling out the same decisions and actions that I found to be stupid and naive and irritating, was incredibly refreshing, even if Lydia was being far too hard on herself about it all.
“As if you could,” she said scornfully. “I’m in this shape because I choose to be.” But I saw a flash of doubt pass over her face. We had never met another witch before.
My aunt laughed. “Isn’t that just like a cat. Everything has to be your own idea.”
I also really liked Kitty Bennet, and Taub’s interpretation of her as Lydia’s cat familiar. And maybe it was because she was a cat that I liked her so much – I am very fond of kitties after all. (Mine is on my lap, right at this moment as I write this review, haha.) I also enjoyed how she still had the attitude of a cat even in human form. The author understands cats well – they’re all a little bit arrogant, they like to imagine that everything is their own idea, and yet they can be incredibly loving and loyal. And incredibly weak to pets. Lydia and Kitty’s relationship as sisters was also very sweet, and I was always rooting for their sisterhood.
Her eyes widened. “My God, I think you’re right. How did I not see it before? Someday you’ll have to teach me how you do that.”
“Do what? Observe things and think them through?”
“Yes, that thing.” She frowned. “Well. Let us go ahead with it then.”
Miss Maria Lambe was also a favorite character of mine. I really enjoyed her determination, as well as her incredibly kind heart that she nearly constantly hud behind a cold veneer. She was such a strong person, perhaps the strongest in the book, which is strange to see as that is usually the protagonist in several female led tales. Miss Lambe is also not originally from Pride and Prejudice, but from another of Austen’s works, one that was never completed. But Taub write her in in such a way that she fit perfectly into the story. I loved that she was added.
I really enjoyed her slow-burn friendship with Lydia. Despite the constant denials from both characters, they were most definitely friends, and their growing bond was one of the things that kept me reading during the book’s slowest parts. I wanted to know more about Maria’s secrets just as Lydia did. I wanted to see the moment Lydia and Miss Lambe accepted their friendship.
• The setting ▼
You walk on the earth every day, taking it for granted. You never think that one day it may shake beneath your feet.
Something is beginning. The thought came to me unbidden.
I really enjoyed all the witchiness and the magic. It felt a natural and organic part of the story, despite its inherent unnaturalness. Much of the story took place in autumn as well, and made it feel even more perfect to read for the season. Plus, I really just like books set in fall – it’s my favorite season.
The setting itself felt extremely authentic as well, which is something that I always enjoy in historical fiction, especially if done right like it is here. Sure, all the tangents about gossip and dresses got annoying every once in a while (I like stories to just go), but that just made the Authenticity Meter go up higher, as that was what some lives were like back then. I also just really liked the descriptions of the balls and outfits.
• The romance and relationships ▼
I really liked the romance here. Primarily Kitty and Denny’s. I don’t know how theirs went in the original P&P, or if it was even present at all, but they were so cuuuute together here. I was always rooting for them from the first second. And theirs was the only one I cried about (and multiple times at that) – it just hit me so hard for whatever reason.
“You do not believe me,” Wickham said. “That is no matter. You will.” And he cupped my cheek in his hand, and kissed me.
Lydia and Wickham’s was sweet too, in it’s own way. Since I’ve never read P&P, I don’t know anything about what their original relationship was like, or how exactly Wickham was presented there. But I really liked how their relationship was built up here, and how Wickham was a literal demon. It just made their dynamic incredibly interesting.
• The pettiness ▼
The pettiness got old really fast. It was something that almost constantly irritated me whilst reading Lydia Bennet, Witch. Every time someone started to be petty, I wanted to scream.
It’s also the reason I didn’t like any of the antagonists and several of the other characters. They were always being petty and nasty about nearly everything! They were so annoying.
• The pacing ▼
The pacing in this novel was also a nightmare for me. I don’t care what the consensus on The StoryGraph is – this book was slow as hell. One of the slowest of burns of slow-burns for me. There’s a reason that I don’t normally read slow-paced books; I don’t typically have the patience for them.
Love your best friends. Forgive your worst friends. Remember, always, not to judge people too hastily, for everyone is living out a story of their own, and you only get to read the pages you appear on.
The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet Witch by Melinda Taub was a wonderful witchy retelling of a classic novel. It also paints Lydia, a character that many people don’t care for, in a different and more likable light. The novel also keeps up the vibes of 19th century England that make it feel very authentic. It may not have been on my fourth Most Anticipated Reads of 2023 list, but that’s only because I discovered it too late.
I think that Jane Austen fans will probably enjoy it, though I can’t really speak about it as I’m not an Austen fan personally. I also think that those who like retellings and historical fantasy will like it as well. This book is also perfect to read during the fall and October in particular, with a pumpkin spice candle burning in the background if you have one.
Have you read any of Jane Austen’s work? What did you think of it? Have you read Lydia Bennet, Witch? What do you think of it?
Thank you so much for reading, and have a beautiful day/night!
See ya ~Mar