Pride and Prejudice in Pittsburgh by Rachael Lippincott does indeed allude to the Jane Austen novel. However, it is about so much more, taking a deep dive into the magic of attraction and chemistry, where two young women wish for moments charged with potential.
Usually ambitious and inspired, Audrey Cameron lives in 2023 Pittsburgh, but she has put her life on hold. Art school wait lists, rejections, and heartbreaks seem to define her present. Because her heart’s desire involves using art to tell the stories of people, Audrey dreams of attending Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She wishes to spend her days studying composition, color theory, and art history, to “try new styles and really figure out her own, instead of what other people tell her it should be. . . . [She wants to] fill sketchbooks and canvases, staying up late to finish passion projects” (126-127), but she has lost her muse, her inspiration.
As she languishes in her parents’ corner store working the cash register, restocking shelves, and helping customers, Audrey receives advice from Mr. Montgomery who tells her: “There’s just as much heartbreak in not putting yourself out there because it guarantees you’re going to miss out. . . . Just because you got hurt once by the wrong person doesn’t mean it’ll happen again if you find the right one” (39).
Lippincott alternates her story between the settings of 2023 and 1812, sharing Audrey’s perspective in the present and Lucy Sinclair’s in the past. Lucy, who lives at Radcliffe, longs for freedom to “mill about town or travel to Paris or study piano at a conservatory” (29). Instead of being a pawn for her father who arranges a marriage for his daughter, Lucy imagines a world where she can do as she pleases rather than what she is told she must do, a world where she has choice and agency. As a replacement for freedom, she hides behind pleasantries and formalities, living a life that is planned, regimented, and contained.
With a bit of Mr. Montgomery magic fueled by both girls wishing to be the heroine of her own story, Audrey crash lands in a field near Radcliffe. Completely out of her element and unsure if she will ever find her way back home again, Audrey has to rediscover herself. With Lucy’s father away in London on business, the two girls have the freedom to live recklessly as they go on a self-discovery quest to find their passion.
Ultimately, the pair of young women discovers that “love—real love—doesn’t care about what’s proper or what other people think. It finds you when you least expect it, where you least expect it” (208).
The girls further realize that just as sure as real love comes with pain and risk, it often involves meeting the wrong person in order to truly know who the right one is. Although real love can be scary and unexpected when we have it, we also realize that we can’t “let anything—not even fear or time itself—keep [us] from it. Like with all things, all [we] can do is take the leap and trust and hope that [our beloved] catches [us] on the other side . . . and that [we’re] strong enough to survive if they don’t” (298).
Pride and Prejudice in Pittsburgh is a poignant story with elements of magic and time travel in order to reveal love as a transcendent power.
- Posted by Donna