This book had all the makings of being fantastic. It was like going to a wonderful performance where the costumes are amazing, the music is superb and the show entertaining. And occasionally someone hits you in the back of the head with a ping pong paddle. After a few hits to the head, you pretty much are mainly going to remember the ping pong paddle more than the show. Reading this book was like that for me.
In an effort to let you know exactly why I do not like this otherwise delightful book, I will let you in on a few plot items that could be seen as "spoilers." Stop reading now if that is a problem.
From the back of the book: The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy is a captivating novel of love, pride and passion and, of course, prejudice. Off-stage events barely mentioned in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are revealed, and many surprising new facts come to light, such as Mr. Darcy's proposal of marriage to another woman. Mr. Darcy writes of his daily life as a society gentleman in Georgian London and of his dangerous friendship with Lord Byron, and he tells the full story of his sister's infatuation with the dastardly Wickham. Most importantly, he describes how he gradually falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet, and, in the process, painfully gains self-knowledge.
Revisit vs. Rehash: A
Nit Picky Things: A
Wonderful Moments: B+
The moment I was hooked: A+
Language: A smattering of Latin words, spelling and phrasing that I assume are authentic to the time period (ex: "said he" instead of "he said"). Overall, the language was lovely.
Characterization: Oh dear. Is it the characterization of Darcy and Bingly that I object to or is the plot that upsets me so? That is kind of like asking why the chicken crossed the road. It really doesn't matter so much because there the chicken is, big as day on the other side of the road.
I have read many other follow up books to Pride and Prejudice. Not only do the books I read suffer the comparison to Austen's original, but to all those that have followed, as well. However, most of them maintain Darcy's impeccable character and devotion to Pemberley. This felt like an earthier, less morally established Darcy.
Almost all of the follow up books I have read give Darcy an amorous, physical past. However, none of them has Darcy consummating anything with anyone once he meets Elizabeth. The fact Darcy visits bordellos, has dalliances with house help and tarries a bit long at a few orgies thrown by his friend Lord Byron served as the ping pong paddle to the head for me throughout the book. It really jarred me from the otherwise lovely story that Mrs. Slater crafted.
And then there is Bingly. He too looks for comfort elsewhere after falling head over heals for Jane. Sure, there are explanations. Sure they are trying to bury their torment. Sure an argument can be made for authenticity. But perhaps it was a bit too much of trying to make Darcy and Bingly real guys during the Regency Period for my puritanical American sensibilities. It felt disloyal to Elizabeth and Jane.
I do not want a Darcy who drinks too much, lacks self control, pleads with Mrs. Young for information and socializes with the scandalous Lord Byron. I like for Darcy's devotion to Pemberley, his sister and to Elizabeth to direct his path.
But maybe that is just me.
Really, apart from that, the rest of the book is wonderful.
There is a good bit of humor in lines like, "I pretended to read, even remembering to turn the pages..."
Plot: Ok, wait there is one more little thing. On the back of the book it says there is a "full story of his [Darcy's] sister's infatuation with the dastardly Wickham." The full story also upset those same sensibilities. A lot.
The rest of the plot was great. I enjoyed the references to literature of the time period as well as the political events. (I really want to read Ann Radlciffe's The Mysteries of Uldolpho now.)
The writing is excellent with great witty lines like, "I have not thought of her today - not once."
And yes, Darcy does propose to someone else (as the back of the book says). It was an interesting twist that I liked.
Just like at the end of the credits of a movie and then there is a bonus clip you weren't expecting, there is an editor's note on the last few pages. It really does give the book a whole new perspective. Not enough for me, but really a clever touch.
Rehash or Revisit: No rehashing. In fact, you really need to have read Pride and Prejudice to follow this story line because quite a bit is left out. I liked that writing choice because I didn't have to re-read scenes over and over that I already knew about.
Nit Picky Things: No little problems. Just those two big ones.
Wonderful Little Moments: Darcy references the sermons he hears on Sundays. The subject matter was usually relevant to him in some way. I found myself looking forward to Sunday diary entries just to see what the next sermon title would be.
The shorter, rushed entries (such as April 24th's) that made the diary feel authentic. The valet, the explanation of the tight trousers.
Originality: Well, I will give it that.
The moment I was hooked: Page 1. But I felt pushed right back out of the story early on by the previously mentioned issues. However, this category is about getting hooked into the story, and it was indeed page 1.
I always really want to like the books about Darcy and Elizabeth. There is a feeling of kindredship with the author. (Not that I have written anything longer than a rambling blog post, but in that we both have a hightened interest level in things Jane Austen.) I am pulling for the book. But the Darcy characterization was a deal breaker for me. Perhaps it will not be for others. If you don't mind, it, then I recommend the book.
If this book were a movie, it would be rated "R."