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Stuck Up & Stupid by Kate Rice & Angourie Rice

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Stuck Up & Stupid is a fun, light romance novel – a modern-day Australian take on Pride & Prejudice. I attended the recent Sydney Writers’ Festival session with mother-daughter author team Kate Rice and Angourie Rice, and it was interesting to hear about some of the writing process.

On the good side, the novel is very clever in just how closely it parallels the plot, scenes and even dialogue in Pride & Prejudice. Having it take place in the heroine’s Lily’s gap year was a good idea, because she has the freedom of travel as well as sitting around at home – much like young Regency ladies – without the 9-5 of a job or university that would otherwise be an obstacle to some of the story.

Other reviewers have commented on a confusingly large number of characters, and this is rather the case. Cleverly, the authors use the original five Bennett sisters to be the heroine’s mother and aunts. (Aunt Mary is some sort of do-gooding missionary type, which was amusing, but the coolest/most successful is Aunt Lizzy, an author married to “Uncle Fitz”) These names/characters are manageable for Austen lovers to get to grips with because we know the originals backwards. What does get a bit difficult is keeping across the large number of younger female characters, sisters and cousins and friends.

The authors mentioned that a particular challenge was finding a way to translate Mr Collins into a modern character. They do this pretty interestingly: “Wilson Collins” is a Hollywood producer’s assistant constantly bending over backwards for his movie mogul boss (the Lady Catherine figure).

The only element that I didn’t feel worked very well was the denouement with Alex King – the “Mr Wickham” character – when he nearly ruins Lydia. A key part of P&P is Darcy’s surreptitious assistance in this, but in Stuck Up & Stupid this doesn’t happen, and worse, Lily is quite rude in rejecting Dorian’s/Darcy’s help (at a time in the original novel where all her resistance to him has dissolved). I think the authors wanted to avoid the damsel-in-distress trope, but it was very jarring and effectively has Lily casting another unjust accusation at Dorian/Darcy at a time when she’s supposed to have realised his good and generous character.

“I didn’t mean to offend,” he said coldly.
“No. You meant to control.”


They then have to fit in another thing that Dorian/Darcy “helps with” – mostly to create a need for the Lady Catherine’s Interference scene – but this then defeats the purpose of Lily wanting to “go alone and risk everything rather than be so dependent on others”.

I’m not sure what the word count of this book is compared to Pride & Prejudice (122,000) but it did at times feel a bit crammed. The pace feels much faster than P&P which, given most modern romance novels aren’t much past 80,000, isn’t surprising. There’s a lot to fit in if they want to mirror every event in Austen’s original, which they do. The problem is that there’s then less space for the kind of reflection and yearning that you get in Austen.