Title: Matters of the Heart
Author: Fiona Palmer
Publisher: 27th August 2019 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary fiction, Australia, Pride and Prejudice retelling, rural romance
My Rating: 5 cups
A classic love story about manners, men and modern romance retold by bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer
Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother's focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.
When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy's sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie's best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.
Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?
Australia's bestselling storyteller Fiona Palmer reimagines Jane Austen's beloved classic tale of manners and marriage, transporting an enduring love story in this very twenty-first century novel about family, female empowerment and matters of the heart.
I am a huge Jane Austen fan, with Pride & Prejudice at the top of my list. I have read many, and I mean many, adaptations - some hit ... some miss. I was so excited to see what Fiona’s Aussie version would be like and I went in with high expectations. I am happy to report that this book totally hit the mark for me! I absolutely loved it and believe Fiona would have truly made Jane Austen proud!
"But the image of his face remained with her and she couldn't figure out why it had disturbed her. Was it the rawness of his words about his mother? Something vulnerable she’d not seen in him before? Shaking her head, she tried to focus on anything but Will.”
I was so engaged in this fun and witty modern day portrayal that takes the well known formula and applies it to family and friendships in modern day outback Australia. I was eager to read it, even when I knew how it would end (a sign of Fiona’s fabulous writing) I couldn’t wait to get back to it. The Aussie outback gave this most familiar tale a fresh and unique appeal that I am sure will appeal to many.
"‘We are living in the moment, Lizzy.’ Lottie rested her head on Lizzy’s shoulder and gestured at the view. ‘This is the best part of my life right now.’
That being said, this rendition follows pretty closely to the original which made me happy. There are, of course, the few obvious and necessary alterations but all up it is a most satisfactory retelling of an all time classic. I eagerly anticipated the arrival of particular characters or certain events, barely containing my excitement to see how Fiona would twist it for rural outback Australia! Let’s see .... Mr Collins/Ken Collins was a good start being slightly quirky and most definitely awkward; Kitty and Lydia are perfectly captured with their self centred, selfie snapping selves; Charlotte/Lottie is far more likeable in this modern day, the matching with Mr Collins made perfect sense; Mr Wickham/Luke Wickham - what a scoundrel! Perfection! Yet all of them (and many other familiar faces) cannot surpass the wonderful Will and Lizzie! Their chemistry literally leapt off the page and it was hard to not flip through the pages too quickly when you just new a good scene was around the corner.
‘Yesterday I thought that maybe I was wrong ... I saw another side of you. The son and the brother and the respected boss.’ She gazed up at him, her heart pounding and her skin electrified. ‘But then I learned about what you did to Jane and I knew I was right all along.’ Her voice crept up, louder and shakier as she tried to contain the building rage. ‘Self-centred and conceited. I could never date a man like you.’.
What I appreciated greatly was this modern and independent Lizzie (how much do we adore that front cover!) With her plans to take over the Longbourn farm and her efforts to self educate and make do on a tight budget were admirable! Seeing her as a capable, confident and strong woman was a real win for the adaptation. I have read other books by Fiona and once again she has proven herself to be at the forefront of this wonderful surge of Aussie authors. This book in particular is just sensational, it would most certainly have been a difficult undertaking, but I have nothing but praise for her efforts.
If you love Jane Austen’s works, are a real P&P fan, then I highly recommend you take the plunge and lose yourself in this Aussie adaptation. This simply is a must read! It is absolutely loads of fun and I can’t wait to see what Fiona comes up with next.
Thanks goes to Hachette Australia for a copy to read and review.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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