cover image The Bennet Women

The Bennet Women

Eden Appiah-Kubi. Montlake, $12.95 trade paper (366p) ISBN 978-1-5420-2917-9

Wacky sitcom tropes vie with ill-thought-out updates to Pride and Prejudice in Appiah-Kubi’s disjointed debut. EJ, the Elizabeth Bennet character, is a Black engineering major and the RA of Bennet House, Longbourn College’s single-sex dorm—described as “something between a sorority and a benevolent cult.” When mixed race Lee Gregory Engel begins dating EJ’s best friend, Jamie, a white trans woman, EJ clashes with Lee’s best friend, Asian-American Hollywood star Will Pak. Will is a radically divergent and excessively mean take on Mr. Darcy, and many readers will struggle to believe EJ can forgive his behavior; in their first meeting, he says EJ looks like a “lady pimp” and later asks her if the Wickham character “fucked [her] stupid.” The commitment to diversifying a very white classic is commendable, and the passages about being a Black woman in majority-white spaces are beautifully and sensitively written, but Austenites will likely take issue with both Will’s characterization and the clumsy updates on famous lines and themes from the original. This will be best enjoyed by those looking not for an Austen retelling but for a broadly drawn enemies-to-lovers romance. [em]Agent: Michelle Richter, Fuse Literary. (July) [/em]