It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride & Prejudice doesn’t update terribly well–it’s so hard to know what to do with Lydia, and marriage does not occupy the same place in society it once did. In The One That Got Away, Melissa Pimentel makes a solid argument that Persuasion might be the Austen work which best survives a contemporary setting. It is perhaps an evergreen notion: the rekindling of a youthful infatuation given up due to peer pressure.
Ruby Atlas is thrown into the company of her ex, Ethan Bailey, when her sister marries Ethan’s best friend. Ethan and Ruby’s break-up went badly, and the intervening 10 years haven’t done much to dull the pain. It doesn’t help that Ethan is now some sort of tech millionaire and dates models and such, which Ruby is not.
Pimentel deftly alternates between telling the stories of Ruby and Ethan “then” and Ruby and Ethan “now”. The story is told mostly from Ruby’s POV, though Ethan gets a chance and sometimes there’s a bit of third person narration. Normally, I find it slightly jarring when a story does this, but Pimentel blends them well.
Because it’s an update of a classic tale, the book doesn’t deviate much from the path of the original, with one exception that I found a little jarring: the reason for Ruby and Ethan’s break-up is not revealed until the end of the book. Whereas we know at the outset why Anne Elliot ends her engagement to Wentworth, Ruby and Ethan’s break-up is just a fact we have to deal with. There are suggestions that it’s for some dark, private reason, but the book doesn’t dwell on it. I suppose this is with good reason: once the rationale is given, you can see how the characters would have needed to interact quite differently.
The One That Got Away was a happy 3.5 star read, though it did prompt me to re-read Persuasion as soon as I finished. It’s not going to knock your socks off. Wentworth fangirls, Ethan isn’t going to make you swoon in the same way. But it’s a perfect beach read.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an unbiased review.