Part 2 of my opinions about the five Austenesque books that I (attempted to) read during the past week. Up today: Mr. Darcy Take a Wife, Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. For a review of the two modern retellings of Pride and Prejudice that I read on my Austenesque binge, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star and The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, see yesterday’s post.
General opinion on the three books of today: Perhaps sequels of Pride and Prejudice really aren’t for me.
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Oh yes, the title is meant to imply all sorts of things. And Darcy really takes a wife.
Ugh. I can’t believe I just said that out loud. But unfortunately it’s true. This was a DNF from me, for two, or perhaps three, reasons.
First: Nothing but sex, sex, and sex. Seriously, right after the engagement, all Elizabeth contemplates is sex, and apparently all Darcy ever did since he was 14 was having sex. Starting with one of his maids. I only made it to the first sex scene between Darcy and Elizabeth, where Darcy just pushes on, because well, pain for the lady is surely part of having sex for the first time, and then afterwards, has to “have her again”, despite being sure she is still hurt, as if she has no choice. Which is possibly true given the time period? But surely not something that a reader could feel comfortable with? Especially considering that it is presented as if this is the most sexy thing in the world.
The preface of the book cites Charlotte Brontë’s opinion on Austen:
“..she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her.. what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of Life and the sentient target of death – this Miss Austen ignores.”
And so I guess now Linda Berdoll has taken it upon herself to “right” this “wrong” in Austen’s fiction. Which I believe she does in a way that Charlotte Brontë surely wouldn’t have enjoyed.
Reason 2: The language. Oh my, the language. I am sure Berdoll meant to somehow mirror Austen’s style, but what you get is a weird almost alien English variant in which lots of “betwixt” and “bethink” and “be-whatever” -’s are used. This is not regency style language. Not even near it. And while I am okay with authors using modern language for Austen sequels, I am not okay with someone using this semi-language that almost seems to ridicule Austen’s style.
Reason 3: Characterisations. Darcy is back to being a pompous ass and really the most unlovable person ever. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is all uncertainty.
I persevered, until it was implied that Darcy had an illegitimate child with his first affair, one of his father’s maids. I just.. couldn’t read that and not fear my love for Pride and Prejudice might just have died. Luckily, Berdoll’s sequel is so far from doing honour to the original that I am quite confident I can forget about it if I reread Pride and Prejudice in the future.
Verdict: Do not even contemplate reading this. Unless, of course, you want to torture yourself. Or, you know, you do not like Austen anyway.
Basic plot summary: Sugary-sweet story of Darcy and Elizabeth that begins right after their engagement.
The Goodreads summary states that:
“A fascinating portrait of a timeless, consuming love – and the sweetest, most romantic Jane Austen sequel”
And I’d have to agree. It is so sweet that it made me cringe. Where I had problems with Darcy being depicted as a man who had sex from age 14 on in Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, here the point is that both Darcy and Elizabeth are virgins, extremely nervous for their first night together. That’s about all the plot I got to when I stopped reading around page 50.
Sharon Lathan explains that she became fascinated with Pride and Prejudice when she first saw the 2005 movie adaptation. She subsequently watched other adaptations and read the book, but loves the movie best. Now I could get all snarky about that, but I think it’s okay to fall in love with a story because of a movie adaptation. What I did have difficulty with is that the characterisations, as well as the scenery, seem to fit the movie much better than the book. Longbourn is a functioning farm, and Elizabeth isn’t afraid of male genitalia because she’s seen them on the house pig (??) Also, the relationship between Jane and Elizabeth, and their characters compared to one another, seem a little untrue. What kept me from finishing this book though was the overtly romantic feel and the lines that make you want to yell to “stop the sugar sweet love bird talk already!” Yep, that’s right, Iris, romantic of the first hour, wanted it to stop. Because, honestly, as much as Elizabeth and Darcy are in love in Pride and Prejudice, I never imagined them having to express it every 5 minutes, or Darcy lavishing a million gifts on Elizabeth.
Another thing? Lathan emphasises the religious feelings of Darcy and Elizabeth every opportunity she gets. It is almost as if Lathan was trying to emphasise the importance of religion in her life. Because, really? I do believe religion would have been important to any Austen character, but the thing is, it being a “natural” part of their life, they wouldn’t have felt the need to express sentiments like this:
In truth, Darcy had always imagined marrying in the chapel at Pemberley and was mildly saddened initially at the natural choice to marry where both Bennet daughters had grown up. However, he quickly realized that he honestly did not care as long as they were married with the sanction of the Church, religion being a vital part of his life.
Now, I’m no expert in early nineteenth-century English church history, but I wonder if it was even possible to get married without the sanction of the church?
Verdict: Suited for those who want to read about Darcy and Elizabeth perfect life and do not mind overt religious language and overtly sugary sweet romance with lots of sprinkles of sex. However, I did not enjoy it very much.
Other Opinions: One Literature Nut, Books Like Breathing, The Book Zombie, The Good, The Bad and the Unread, Truth, Beatuty, Freedom and Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review By Bobbie, Allison’s Attic, Austenprose.
Did I miss yours? Let me know and I will add your review to the list.
Basic plot summary: This book traces the friendship between Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam over the years after the wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth.
In Darcy and Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth and Darcy are happily married (of course, having lots of sex, because apparently that’s the only thing these two ever do in sequels), until Elizabeth finds out that Darcy had a brief affair with Caroline Bingley. She becomes so angry that she starts throwing things and screaming, and etcetera. Meanwhile, Caroline, being a mean, petty, and conniving woman, lures Darcy to Netherfield while Charles and Jane are away, and while Darcy rejects her advances, he still stays the night and so DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA.
First, Darcy having an affair with Caroline? What kind of story is this? WHat got to me most is that Caroline is set up as someone who slept with every rich young man in the country, and when that information is provided to the reader, it is often linked to the fact that she will always have a background in trade. Um, way to go with the class prejudices. I do believe Caroline would have done a lot to get Darcy to love her, but sleep around with him and many others before marriage? A little hard to imagine for someone as proud as her. Also, Darcy would never have fallen for the “trap” set by Caroline. As if he wouldn’t have recognised a difference in handwriting, as if Elizabeth would ever leave Jane’s letter unopened.. I understand you need some story line in a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but this whole thing just seemed so absurd.
Second, when Elizabeth finds out about Darcy and Caroline, she is portrayed as hysteric. In such a way that it is implied that Elizabeth is at fault for reacting like she did. Which I could only shake my head at and tried to ignore before giving up on the story altogether after the Caroline sleep-over incident.
Third, the relationship between Darcy and Fitzwilliam, which is presented as at the core of the story, also seemed a little farfetched. Fitzwilliam, having fought in the war against Napoleon returns home unable to deal with his past, drinking himself into a stupor, and (implied), sleeping with every women he can get his hands on. Meanwhile, Darcy, the man who cast of Wickham because of his degrading sexual behaviour and gambling habits before Wickham tried to seduce his sister in Pride and Prejudice, finds little fault with Fitzwilliam. Also, they call each other names. Fitzwilliam for Darcy uses “brat”, while Darcy calls Fitzwilliam “Old Bastard”. Brat and Old Bastard? Used and accepted by the proud Mr. Darcy? In the 1920′s, perhaps, but around 1815? Surely, this would not have happened.
Verdict: I am sorry to say that this story has so much mischaracterization that, despite the efforts the author undoubtedly made, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Pride and Prejudice.
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I think I have tried my hand at enough sequels and retelling to ignore them again for a little while. You know how it goes, I am sure to try some more in the future. I am sure there must be good ones out there.