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Being Elizabeth Bennet - Emma Campbell Webster

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Hardcover: 352 pages / Publisher: Atlantic Books / Published: 8 Oct 2007

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      12.04.2013 13:27
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      I got bored and gave up.

      Ever since getting an e-reader, I've been reading very more but trying not to buy physical books - my house looks so much better without the clutter. However, when I saw a copy of this on sale for just a quid at my local WHSmith (the cover was all tatted up, which is why it was so cheap) and discovered it was a create-your-own-adventure (CYOA from henceforth) book based on the works of Jane Austen, I had to buy it.

      I always loved CYOA books as a child, and I've fairly recently gotten into Austen, so it seemed like a good buy. A brief glance through the introduction reveals that as well as being able to play this as a fairly simple CYOA story, there is also a system of keeping points, which can influence the outcomes. Points come under various categories, and it asks you to divide a page into categories for Intelligence, Confidence, Fortune, Accomplishments, and Connections. As you (playing as Elizabeth Bennet) progress through your storyline, you will learn new skills and accomplishments, make connections (some good, and some very undesirable) and of course your fortune may rise or fall, depending on fates fickle favour or, more accurately, on the choices you make.

      I initially chose to keep score - it sounded like a bit more of a challenge that way.

      The book begins with the news that nearby Netherfield Park has been rented by a Mister Bingley, an eligible London bachelor worth some £5000 a year, and rumoured to be rather handsome. He's due to appear at the next assembly, where you, and your sisters will have the chance to meet him. Your mother is terribly excited by the news, as with four daughters, none of them wed, she's eager to have some of you married off well. When you meet Bingley, it's clear that your sister Jane is very taken with him, and he with her, and you are left to entertain his disagreeable friend, Mr Darcy.

      A series of polite visits occur between the Bennets and the Bingleys, but your mother is impatient to hurry things along, sending jane to walk to the hall in the rain, knowing full well that with her delicate constitution she is bound to fall ill, and that the Bingleys will have to offer her accommodations whilst she recovers. Concerned for your sisters welfare and reputation, you set out to go to Netherfield Park yourself, but do you turn left, or right?

      The book started to annoy me very quickly, by requesting that I add a column for 'Failings' next to my list of accomplishments. I'd already drawn up a neat and tidy chart, and begun keeping score, but I dutifully tore up the paper and began again. When it later asked me to divide connections into two columns for 'good' and 'bad' connections, I nearly threw the book out of the window.

      There are a variety of different choices throughout the book. Some are simple 'do you go this way or that' choices, where others are questions that will test your knowledge of the Regency period, with correct answers giving you accomplishments to add to your list, and incorrect answers resulting in points deductions and possible additions to the failings list. The scores, if you keep them, can also give you choices - it might say 'Take path A if your intelligence is above 100, take path B if below 100'. If you haven't kept score, the book allows you to pick either option.

      I got very fed up with keeping score, not least because points seemed often to get deducted because of the behaviour of others. I see the logic in losing confidence points when snubbed in society, for example, but I'm not sure why I should lose intelligence points because my mother is an embarrassing social climbing marriage mongerer.

      I also didn't enjoy the way the book was written. The tone of light irreverence was fine for lightening up the story line a little, as I imagine if the story line and writing style of Austen had been rigidly adhered to throughout the CYOA premise would not have worked. But it just didn't set the scene enough for me to really start caring about anybody - it needed a little more depth in the writing in order to draw me into the story line, but everything just seemed vague. It mainly concentrates on Pride and Prejudice for basic story line, but does add in events and stories from other Austen novels, which just ends up making it feel like all the characters are just cluttering things up.

      I quite soon got bored with the book. I got beaten to death by gypsies once, and pursued a career on the stage but died alone and heartbroken. I played with the book for about 2 hours, and after that I just didn't have enough interest to carry on with it.

      I do think it was quite a good idea for a book, and I have no doubt that other people may get a lot more enjoyment out if it than me. Perhaps it's that I'm older than I was when I last read a CYOA book, I'm sure they were always light on detail, and perhaps I've been let down by my own nostalgic expectations. Whatever the reason is, I didn't enjoy this book. I can't really moan having paid only £1 for it, had I paid the full cover price of £12.99 I'd have been furious with myself.

      Do I recommend it? Nope, sadly I just didn't enjoy it at all, and can only award it the lowest rating of one Dooyoo star.

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