Friday, January 25, 2008

Austen Week, part V

Several months ago we were offered a pile of Austen-inspired novels from the fine people at Sourcebooks, Inc.. While all of the titles were entertaining, we were particularly impressed by Sybil G. Brinton's Old Friends and New Fancies (which we reviewed on the main site), Jane Dawkins's Letters From Pemberley, and Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary.

Jane Dawkins's Letters From Pemberley: The First Year is a continuation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and features a series of letters written by Elizabeth to her sister Jane. While the book touches lightly upon the difficulties Elizabeth faces during her swift social elevation as the new Mrs. Darcy, the bulk of novel is spent introducing a series of lightly-disguised characters, situations, and famous lines from Austen's other works.

Dawkins does a credible imitation of Austen's style, and paints a sweet picture of Elizabeth and Darcy's life together, but the best thing about Letters From Pemberley is her decision to borrow liberally from Austen's other books. Austenmania is a dangerous fandom to screw with*, and it's much smarter to appeal to our intellectual vanity ("Hey, she made Mr. Knightley into Mr. Daley! Heh. Man, I am, like, so smart...") than it is to have us foaming at the mouth over ill-advised tampering with our favorite book.

*We bite.

Like Pamela Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary re-tells Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's point of view. It's always a little difficult for me to accept Mr. Darcy as hardcore diarist (let's face it: he's not exactly Mr. Self-Aware), but Grange does a nice job of illustrating the changes he undergoes during his courtship of Elizabeth.

While Grange makes a handful of unnecessary and unwelcome changes to her source material, including upping the toolishness of the younger Bennet girls*, she wisely doesn't linger over the several-month-long period during which Mr. Darcy is absent from Pride and Prejudice. (Aidan tried to fill this section by sending Darcy off on a bizarre Gothic adventure; Grange just bulldozes right through it, spending about as much time on the months between April and August as she does on Elizabeth's six-day visit to Derbyshire.) Mr. Darcy's Diary is far from perfect, but Grange's restrained writing style and obvious affection and respect for Austen's novel make her book an entertaining accompaniment to the original work.

*Like, what, they weren't embarrassing enough?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both of these authors wrote more, in case anybody's interested. Dawkins wrote a sequel to "Letters From Pemberley", and Grange wrote diaries for both Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth.

4:48 PM


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Austen Week, part IV

Austen Week, part III

Austen Week, part II

Austen Week, part I

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Curiosity vs. my delicate sensibilities

A love triangle involving only two bodies?

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