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 šŸ˜¦

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 šŸ˜€

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!

Lost in Austen (P&P challenge #2)

When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on. Books about adventures in the Amazone, stories about ordinary girls such as myself enjoying every day, drama in long gone times and adventures set in a fantasy world very unlike our own. As every young reader does, I imagined myself to be the main character, living through all the exitement, picturing myself in the world described by books. I would wear gorgeous, long dresses in period drama, be running around the forest in little more than a twig-and-leaf bikini or have pointy ears when being an elf.

As I turned older, I got my own bookshelves. I stacked them with all the books I loved so much. The hanging bookshelves were positioned in a triangle next to my bed, the middle one the highest, so I could sit in bed with my back against the wall, reading while surrounded by books. That is when my imagination concerning the world of books began to change. I had always pictured myself as the main character, the heroine. Now I began imagining simply living in the same world. In my dreams, I could see a hidden doorway beneath the triangle of bookshelves. Passing it, I would enter whatever world belonged to the book I was reading at the time.

It was a lovely time, my childhood, and I had quite forgotten I used to imagine this, until I watched ‘Lost in Austen‘ for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. Miss Amanda Price gets to do what I always imagined: she gets to step into the world of her favourite book, somewhat exchanging places with the main character. She is awed and very exited. I can imagine she might have had the same childhood ideas and fantasies, that have now become a reality. Amanda screws up, naturally, for she only knows the novel and barely anything of life 200 years ago. Unlike my completely appropriate behaviour when I entered the world of books, Amanda fails to conform to the norms and standards of the time. Instead of running its natural course, her entering the world alters the so beloved story of Pride and Prejudice.

The first episode I have watched with my hands before my eyes, feeling somewhat ashamed of the odd behaviour Amanda displays. After that I was quite able to follow the storyline. What an exaggeration of characters, that are already quite stereotyped in the novel. Mrs. Bennet is more fussy about her daughters getting married, Mr. Bennet vexes his wife even more than becomes apparent in the novel. Mr Collins is ghastly, horrible, despicable… mainly EW, that’s the best word to describe him.

Lost in Austen really is a very funny story, with exaggerated characters and very inappropriate behaviour by Amanda. Flirting with the BBC’s 1995 adaptation, we even get a wet Mr Darcy, which doesn’t make sense in the story at all. Miss Bingley, who would have imagined, turns out to be a lesbian, and Georgiana not quite so innocent as we have always believed her to be. The whole adaptation is a great parody on the story we all know so well, beautifully pictured and acted. And another bonus: I think it contained the most attractive Mr. Darcy I have seen thus far šŸ˜‰ Yes, drool time, definitely!


Further reading