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‘There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.’ - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I have loved Pride and Prejudice from the moment I read it in high school and I think it was Elizabeth’s feistiness that stuck with me – and, of course, the love story. (Who am I kidding, it was Mr Darcy. Swoon!) Especially how Elizabeth’s dislike for Will Darcy, which is very passionate, soon becomes love. I enjoy seeing love blossom when least expected. That fire and spark, the verbal duelling, the passion we see but they don’t. For all I know, Austen’s story is probably what shaped my love of romance and what guided me into a writing career. 

For years I have thought that an Australian rural version of Pride and Prejudice set in the 21st century would work perfectly. Country life is still quite traditional and I felt Austen’s story would weave in so well, but with a 21st-century twist: I wanted Wickham to be a modern-day player and for the young sisters to be social media–addicted teenagers. Dating and ‘courtship’ these days have been irrevocably changed by technology, not to mention societal shifts. No longer the slow burn of passion under the social mores of Austen’s time, nor the requirement that a relationship leads to marriage. It got me thinking about how Lizzy would lead her life in 2019.

Lots of hours spent in tractors and headers gave me plenty of time to plot this new version. Lizzy is still a strong-minded, intelligent woman but instead of needing a man and his wealth to save her and her family, she saves herself. Lizzy is able to speak her mind but she is not perfect, her faults make her very human and likeable. All my stories have strong women and feisty Lizzy fits the mould, being just like the characters I normally write. The whole Bennet family came alive for me: they are people who could be living just down the road, farming in our small town and who I meet at the local cabaret. They feel that real to me. Will on the other hand … I’m not sure I’d ever meet some wealthy farming magnate around here but it sure would be nice. I can even picture the movie version … but who would play Will? Someone recently recommended a heartbroken Liam Hemsworth as the moody Mr Darcy.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? What is your favourite retelling? I can’t go past the movie version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, that moment when he helps her into the horse and cart … the touch of hands … it spoke volumes.

  • Matters of the Heart - Fiona Palmer

    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 friendship and matters of the heart.

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