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Book Wednesday: Dear Mr Darcy, by Amanda Grange

Jane Austen has only completed six novels, seven if you include Lady Susan, which I guess a lot of people don’t because it’s not often included in the Complete Jane Austen collections, and is more often than not put with the incomplete, Sanditon and The Watsons. And while it may take some time to read all of Austen’s work (I only read Emma last summer, and Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon last December, and I still haven’t read the juvenilia) and the work that is there is very re-readable, most Janeites eventually turn to derivative fiction.

While there are almost as many different kinds of derivative work as there are authors writing them, most of the time they can be grouped in one of three categories; the alternate timeline (the prequels and sequels), the alternate universe (Butterfly Effect stories, modernization, supernatural elements, and so on) or the alternate point of view.

Dear Mr Darcy, however, doesn’t exactly fit in any of those categories. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in epistolary form. It’s extremely clever and well-written and the new characters created by Ms Grange (the original characters need someone to write TO, after all) feel like a natural addition to the story. I only have one real problem with this book: the letter from Mr Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, the one that takes most of chapter 35 and turns the story on its ear, is missing. How can you write Pride and Prejudice in epistolary form and not include the letter?!

This one glaring omission notwithstanding (and wow, that is actually a word, the English language is weird), it’s one of the best derivative Pride and Prejudice work out there, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s read P&P and wants more.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Wednesday: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I know, I know. What a cliché, right? A fan of Jane Austen who favors Pride and Prejudice over all her other novels. One would almost think that is it a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is a favorite of all Janeites. Not only that, but we all wish to be Miss Elizabeth Bennet and marry Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Well, in my case at least, that’s not quite right. It is true that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Austen novel. I have re-read it many times. And unlike my slightly manic and obsessive re-readings of Emma in January, I’m not trying to pick up clues about a story untold: I’m simply enjoying the narrative and the writing. I have also re-watched my favorite adaptations – the 1995 BBC one starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, starring Ashley Clements and Daniel Vincent Gordh – many times.

But I’m not Elizabeth Bennet, quick-witted and arrogant. I do not wish to marry Mr Darcy, proud and reserved. If anything, I am more like Mr Darcy, and would need an Elizabeth Bennet equivalent. (Or I could be an Elinor Dashwood waiting for my Edward Ferrars, or a Jane Fairfax waiting for my Frank Churchill. The great thing about reading all of Austen is that it’s easier to find an analogy that fits you.)

Speaking of adaptations, I’ve yet to see one that depicts the first meeting of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy in a way that truly reflect the book. To give a bit of context, they are at a dance, Elizabeth is sitting down due to a lack of partner, and Mr. Bingley walks up to his good friend Mr. Darcy, standing nearby, and proposes to introduce them, so that Mr. Darcy can invite her to dance.

“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Emphasis mine. Now, I could be wrong, but this is how I’m interpreting that scene.

Darcy isn’t an idiot, he knows that Elizabeth is close enough to hear what he says. And he stares at her until she stares back, before he tells Bingley she’s not good enough for him. This isn’t Lizzie hiding somewhere and overhearing his private conversation like in the 2005 movie version. (And oh, don’t even get me started on that version!) This is Darcy going out of his way to insult her; no wonder she won’t believe he’s in love with her!

And it’s part of what I really like about Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both begin the story believing that they are better then everybody else, and they both have to change to get their happy ending. That’s pretty rare. Usually, in romantic literature, you have one character who needs to change and evolve and learn, and the other is already perfect, or at least perfect for the character they are matched with. Pride and Prejudice doesn’t follow that pattern, and maybe that is why it has been such a success in the time of Austen, and why it remains such a success to this day.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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