Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mr. Darcy's Diary (Amanda Grange)


To an avid fan of Jane Austen's works, the idea of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's point of view was appealing. It bears reiterating, however, that the book was in fact written centuries later by a different author.

  • Overall: 1.8 ҉
  • Plot: 2/5
  • Originality: 2/5
  • Language: 1.3/5
  • Believability: 2/5
The book begins not with Bingley's occupation of Netherfield, but rather with the original incident involving Georgiana and Mr. Wickham. In this area, the author takes creative license, expanding upon circumstances and giving one a different view upon Georgiana's character as well as that of Ms. Younge. This sets the stage for the events that follow and Darcy's take upon them. It also elucidates his feelings towards both his sister and his former steward's son.

My favorite scenes in this novel are the ones created entirely from the author's own mind. Ms. Bingley was always faithfully represented, as were Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine. The incidences that Grange created give us more insight into the characters of minor players and even ones who figured prominently in Pride and Prejudice without ever being fleshed out. By this I refer to Bingley, who was only ever shown to be an amiable gentleman who is easily swayed. Grange's take on his personality made him less of an idea and more of a person one can believe in.

The entire book is written as a diary, adding in various events to fill in the gaps in time that existed between Darcy's appearances in the original novel. The dialogue from the original was retained, and while I can see the attempt to maintain authenticity, it came at the price of my belief in the premise of this work. In writing in one's journal, it seems unlikely that one would set about scripting out conversations as one would if writing an actual book. The insertions seemed forced, reminding me that this is an homage to another author's work.

Part of the reason that the quotations stood out was due to vocabulary and style. Grange does quite well in some instances in terms of her sentence structure and removal of the contractions we are so fond of these days. In spite of all of this, however, I was struck by the simplicity of the journal entries. Bingley once commented upon Darcy's use of long words, suggesting a verbosity that was sorely lacking here. The repetition of words and phrases also seemed uncharacteristic when compared to Austen's original dialogue.

More than a Darcy-centered play-by-play, I came into this experience wanting to see an interpretation of his inner thoughts and reasoning, as well as the changes in his character over time. These are present in the passages fabricated by the author; unfortunately, they are absent in those already established by the original work. Instead, preexisting sections become summaries of Austen's scenes, limiting Darcy's emotions to those that she already laid out. They did not improve my understanding of the man in question.

One of the many dangers of writing historical fiction is in keeping everything true to the time period, and I applaud the author's bravery in attempting such a daunting undertaking. Even so, I couldn't help but notice the instances in which this became an issue in Mr. Darcy's Diary. An anachronism that came up several times was the lack of proper use of subjunctives. Many twenty-first century writers will use "I was" when "I were" is technically correct, but this sort of rule-breaking should not have been present given the thorough education that Darcy undoubtedly received. These moments jolted me out of Grange's take on Austen's world every time they occurred, making it difficult to believe that this book is indeed a journal penned by Fitzwilliam Darcy's hand.

It isn't easy trying to fill Jane Austen's shoes. In Mr. Darcy's Diary, the author succeeds best when deviating from the predetermined track and channeling her own take on these beloved characters. An original work may do more justice to her talents.

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