Mr Darcy’s Diary (P&P challenge #6)

Pamela Aidan is not the only author intrigued with what Mr Darcy actually does and feels during the events described in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She has written a great series on ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, gentleman’, which I have reviewed earlier in the course of the Bicentenary Challenge. Amanda Grange has attempted the same in ‘Mr Darcy’s diary‘, using a very different format.

Diaries usually reveal a person’s innermost feelings (which is probably why others are usually not allowed to read them). It is a format of writing that thus allows for much depth, more about emotion and interpretation than about factual accounts of a story. In my opinion, this is precisely what Grange has not managed to do. Yes, the diary also relates to periods that are not described in the original novel, but that is fairly limited. Naturally, her story follows the line of Pride and Prejudice, using literal excerpts from the novel, but it remains mainly a factual account. You would expect to get to know Darcy better, crawl into his head and heart and learn what he thinks and feels about the events that take place. Sadly, the character of Darcy remains quite flat ūüė¶

Perhaps I was biased because I read Aidan’s series first. Scanning Goodreads reviews, I found many people comparing the two authors and finding Grange’s version lacking, while those who haven’t read the trilogy yet are fairly positive. I can only join the critics in this case, even though the two books have a very different format. Where Pamela Aidan has succeeded in giving insight into Darcy’s life apart from his time at Netherfield, his feelings and thoughts, Amanda Grange has not or only fairly limited. Does that mean I disliked reading it? No, but had I read it first, I would have enjoyed it better. On the other hand, like one of the reviewers on Goodreads also said, it is a very different format, and perhaps was written with different intentions. It is not a stand alone book, but has to accompany the original novel. Perhaps that is the best conclusion.

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The other way around (P&P challenge #4)

Chances are you’ve had to read literature in your mother-tongue and perhaps in a second and/or third language (Dutch and English in my case). Perhaps you recall not liking the books, because they were forced on you. Lucky for me, most of the times I liked the books I had to read or chose to put on my reading list. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) was one of my favourites and it still is. I reread it at least once every year. As 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the novel, I have entered the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Austenprose. My goal is to read or watch 12 P&P inspired books and movies. So far I’ve seen the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, the BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (with the famous wet shirt scene) and the spin-off Lost in Austen, which was incredibly funny. I’ve also followed Lizzie Bennet, the protagonist of the story, in her YouTube vlog ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries‘. Yes, Lizzie Bennet knows how to use the computer and social media!

But, finally, I’ve also read some books! A trilogy, to be precise, by Pamela Aidan. Going by the name ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman‘, the trilogy gives unbiased view on Mr Darcy, quite unlike Elizabeth Bennet gives us. We get an insight into his character and his reasoning, and we even get to know what Darcy is doing when he is away from Netherfield (remember, he convinced his best friend Bingley to stop his courting of Lizzie’s sister Jane). Many things we never would have given much thought. But then, we only know the story written from Lizzie’s point of view…

Pamela Aidan has done an amazing job in telling the story the other way around. Darcy sees an intelligent young woman with a pair of fine, sparkling eyes and the wit and courage to oppose him. He is attracted to her, and the playfulness she displays indicated she might feel something similar. After all, he is a very eligible bachelor with his 10,000 per annum, and he’s at an age he really should be looking to settle. Prejudice all over again, because we know what Elizabeth thinks. Darcy is the most disagreeable man ever to live, is proud and conceited, and most importantly, he has destroyed the happiness of Jane by talking Bingley into leaving her. No wonder she rejected him when he asked her to marry, perceiving him so, but Darcy was caught by surprise. We accompany Darcy as he tries to regain his composure (I don’t want to give away too much about this, as it is not told in the original novel… Get the books and read it for yourself) and comes to terms with his rejection. He begins to recognize how his pride has hindered him and reflects on what he has done to truly deserve the answers Elizabeth has given him. His sister Georgiana, whom we read little about in Pride and Prejudice, also plays a role in Darcy’s change from proud to likable. We all know how it ends. Darcy has developed, his character has changed and he tries to make amends. With success, lucky for us, faithful readers. I’m happy every time when they finally do get together ūüėÄ

An assembly such as thisApart from narrating the well known story from a completely different point of view, the author has succeeded in keeping the trilogy close to the original novel in style and character. The political ideas of the time are apparent in the trilogy, more than in Pride and Prejudice, and the intercourse between people is consequently quite formal. Darcy’s pride and prejudice play a major role (which we already knew), and the way he realizes he has (had) these flaws and tries to deal with this is the strongest part of the series. I rated the books either 3 or 4 stars out of five, because, unfortunately, the books did get boring at times. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice as I have, be sure to read the story the other way around and get ‘An assembly such as this’ to start with!

200 years Pride and Prejudice (P&P challenge #1)

Yesterday it was Pride and Prejudice’s 200th birthday. For a novel that perhaps didn’t inspire much thought when it was first published, it is now one of the most well-read Jane Austen novels and one of my personal favourites. Why? Because it is so easy to get into the head of Elizabeth Bennet and understand what she goes through, even though society has changed greatly since the novel was first written. I have reread the book for probably the 5th time and still fell in love with Darcy as Elizabeth did, and I still felt curious: will they get together in the end? Of course, I know, but the way the book is written makes me question is every time again.

ImagePride and Prejudice has inspired some great movies, the latest from 2005 with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Wonderful costumes, picturesque villages and mansions, traditional dances (which I LOVE) and naturally the wonderful story. Yet, it doesn’t tell the entire story. I found that I missed parts of the story. Especially Darcy’s side of the story barely is enlightened, though it is hinted at in the novel. Had I not known the story yet, the (very sudden) admiration for Elizabeth had come across quite odd. Within the short time frame I have to say that Matthew Macfadyen makes the most of it, though… A very handsome Mr Darcy indeed!

Recently I bought the 1995 BBC series, starring the brilliant Jennifer 

ImageEhle and Colin Firth. Though I very much liked the 2005 film edition, I absolutely LOVED the series and spent an entire day with simply watching Pride and Prejudice. It is so truthful to the story, telling every little bit, showing how Darcy feels, having the clothing and environment that perfectly fits with 200 years ago. Contrary to the movie, the colours in the series are quite plain, but as I noticed that, I realized that plain colours are way more natural!

One of my favourites at this moment is a modern adaptation of the story as a video blog on Youtube. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, short videos of 3 to 6 minutes, and they’re great! The additional characters get way more depth than in the original novel or the movies. You can view the first episode here.¬†If you like it, there are currently 83 videos, and Lizzie is at Pemberley (yes, the story line is followed, but it is a very modern adaptation). According to some, this adaptation stays true to the novel best… Go check it out!

I’m definitely not the only one to love this classic, 200 year old novel. Many more people do. Some people have been inspired to write about Jane Austen’s world, others take a more feminist approach as a Modern Mrs Darcy¬†(she has written very nice reviews of the different film editions as well!)¬†and yet others simply love Pride and Prejudice, such as¬†The Bennet Sisters and Austenprose.