Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Caroline Bingley Is a Great Character for a Sequel

Austenesque author Jennifer Becton joins us today. Her latest book, Caroline Bingley, left some Janeites wondering--why write about Miss Bingley? (You can see my review on Indiejane.)

Top 5 Reasons Caroline Bingley Is a Great Character for a Sequel

I hear what you’re thinking: Caroline Bingley as the hero of her own Pride and Prejudice sequel? Jennifer, what are you smoking? She’s horrible! Just think of what she said to Lizzy and how she treated Jane. Why should anyone want to read a book about her?

Well, I’ll tell you my top 5 reasons for deciding to write about dear, sweet Caroline, and you can decide if you want to read a book about her.

5. Caroline speaks her mind. Sure, she may not always say the nicest things, but at least she is willing to make her opinions known. In Elizabeth Bennet, we find pert opinions to be a benefit. In Caroline, not so much. Caroline was happy to speak negatively of the Bennet’s vulgar relations and on many other similar subjects of decorum and dress, but in reality, her opinions on wealth and status were not dissimilar to those held by many people in the Regency period. She was an outspoken product of her time and social influences.

4. Caroline is funny. Consider her attempts to woo Mr. Darcy while he demonstrates his letter-writing prowess: “You write uncommonly fast,” “I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend one for you. I mend pens remarkably well,” and “Do you always write such charming long letters to [Georgiana], Mr. Darcy?” (Austen, P&P, ch. 10). Okay, so she may not be intentionally funny, but that is comic gold!

3. Caroline is complex. Caroline is “of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on [her memory] than that [her] brother’s fortune and [her] own had been acquired by trade” (Austen, P&P, ch. 4). Caroline has a secret. She is a wannabe. She may have money, but it was not gained through socially acceptable channels, and she is trying to hide her lowly past. That’s conflict and it makes for good reading and interesting character development.

2. Caroline is flawed. Mr. Darcy and Caroline were very much alike when they were introduced in Pride and Prejudice: “Darcy was continually giving offense,” and he said many unkind things about Elizabeth’s family and relations. He even participated in the plan to separate Jane and Bingley. However, he mended his ways. Caroline did many of the same things, but she never saw the error of her ways. Caroline has lots of room to grow and overcome her flaws just as Darcy did.

1. Caroline doesn’t mess around. She acts. She may not always do the right thing, but at least she is doing something. She does what she believes is best for her family. There is no dithering or whining. She sees a need and she acts upon it. That is just what we love in a heroine.

So Caroline Bingley may not be the most obvious choice for a heroine, especially because her goals in Pride and Prejudice were in direct conflict with Elizabeth’s. She was the antagonist, but not a true villainess who was out plotting her opponent’s destruction. She just wanted what she wanted, and she tried to make her desires come to fruition. She failed in all ways.

Did Caroline learn from her mistakes? Did she end up marrying a stuffy, old aristocrat? Or did she learn the joys of love?

If you’d like to check out my view on her future, Caroline Bingley is available in ebook format at Amazon, BN, and Smashwords. The paperback will be available soon, but you can preorder a signed copy at my website.

Nancy: There is also a giveaway running at Indiejane that ends today. Whether you purchase a copy or win one, this is a sequel to read and re-read.