Simply put, Prawn & Prejudice transfers the story of Pride and Prejudice to 21st-century Salcombe, a seaside town in Devon. This slim “novelette” is a self-published effort, sold in a local boutique, and designed to showcase the town in which it is set. Such a book could turn out to be horrifyingly twee, but we are pleased to report that Prawn & Prejudice is saved from tweeitude by a rollicking humor that recalls Jane Austen’s Juvenilia at its silliest.
The Bennet family is holidaying in Salcombe, and Mrs. Bennet is delighted to hear of a rich young man, Charles Bingley, who has come to town. Bingley is affable, if a bit dim, and quickly falls for the beautiful Jane Bennet. His friend Darcy finds himself attracted in spite of his prejudices to Jane’s younger sister Elizabeth. Darcy is rich and handsome, but Lizzy finds him not nearly as pleasant as his friend, despite his 60-foot yacht, Pemberley. The red coats of the Blankshires are replaced by the red shorts (and yellow t-shirts) of the RNLI lifeguards. Let the games begin!
And games they are indeed. The characters lurch hilariously from adventure to misadventure. Mrs. Bennet losing her footing in the launch–Mr. Collins and the greased pole–the parachuting teddies–the sandcastle contest–we laughed out loud at the sheer over-the-top silliness more than once. (To give an idea of the humor, Lady Catherine becomes Catherine de Brrr. That’s not a typo.) The story is extremely rushed; characters speak in sometimes startling anachronisms (“And what of his sisters? Were they not awesome? Quite the most elegant creatures you ever beheld?”); and the “novelette” suffers from a lack of much-needed copy editing, but, well, it has some very funny, almost Monty Pythonish moments, and let’s face it, when most of us are relaxing on a summer afternoon, we’re not looking to read Proust. We just want some mindless entertainment; and we found ourself shouting with laughter more than once at the crazy goings-on in Salcombe. We found it just the thing for a couple of afternoons by the pool. If you have a holiday coming up, it might be the fluffy bit of diversion you are looking for.
Prawn & Prejudice is available via the Beetleheart Books website and can be ordered from amazon.co.uk and the Jane Austen Centre at Bath. It is also available at Amelia’s Attic in Salcombe, where the Bennet sisters love to shop!