By the beginning of Chapter 2, I found myself searching for additional titles that Maria Hamilton might have written. I knew quite quickly that I was going to not only enjoy this novel but would desire more. As there are no more, I am happy to report that Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is 446 pages long. Read accordingly.
The blurb from the back of the book: Darcy is shocked when Elizabeth refuses his hand - and then he begins to realize how very badly he has behaved. Now he's on a mission to transform himself and to change Elizabeth's mind. But Elizabeth Bennet is not easily swayed...
And then there's her family. Misinterpreting Darcy's intentions, meddling friends and family may derail Darcy's cause. With misunderstanding in the air, and even his closest allies unable to help him, unless Darcy can really transform himself, he's never going to win Elizabeth over...
Rehash vs. Revisit: A+
Nit Picky Little Things: B
Wonderful Little Moments: A
The Moment I was Hooked: A+
Language: Hamilton uses lovely SAT type words like supposition, acrimonious, oblique and speaks of of people in essentials. But it is the rhythm and tone of the book that swept me away. I immediately could picture every scene like watching a movie and hear the music swell in the background.
Characterization: The first line finds Darcy resting his head against the the seat of his coach leaving Huntsford. Darcy unhinged is entertaining and compelling. This retelling is mostly from his vantage point and the well known events feel fresh because of it. And Darcy as jealous is even more delicious than regular Dacy, if one could imagine.
All of the characters were recognizable. Bingly was insightful and clever. He is the same Bingly as in Austen but we get to spend a little more time with him and know him more deeply.
There are comparisons between Darcy's relatives and Elizabeth's that I had considered before. And then there are comparisons I had never considered: Darcy and Jane. Also,
Plot: It is indeed a retelling of the courtship but by Chapter 2, events begin unfolding slightly differently than expected. It is both familiar and yet new enough not to feel redundant. As I read it, I was swept away in a dreamy state that you can not wait to return to when reading a captivating book or after watching a romantic movie. That is, until you have to fold laundry and even that feels a bit more lovely in the haze of Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship. There were quite a few scenes that I would have loved to see play out on screen: The dinning room table, the too small sofa, Mr. Bennet's study.
There was a lot of introspection. Normally, I skim those sorts of paragraphs. But I read every word of Hamilton's text. It was all so relateable (as we have all experienced those moments of self doubt and misunderstanding) but so much more elegant. Self doubt with top hats, gloves and curricles is so much more sophisticated than the way I do it.
Rehash vs. Revisit: Revisit. This skimmer read every word. That is the highest praise I can give.
Nit Picky Little Things: There was this one little plot development towards the end that I was not sure about its location in the story. It felt it a little cart before the carriage.
Wonderful Little Moments: Surely, only mortification could come of this, cutting their own meat, Darcy's conversations with Mrs. Bennet. I actually drew 9 little smilie faces and 12 hearts in the margin while reading as a way of marking moments I found quite funny or very romantic. If I had read this in a book club, these were moments I certainly would have wanted to discuss.
Originality: Retellings are difficult to make feel original without turning everyone vampire. Maria Hamilton did create a fresh feeling story about Darcy & Elizabeth's courtship that I have reread 3 times now.
The Moment I was Hooked: Within the first few pages.
If this book was a movie: It would be PG-13ish. But certainly not for a 13 year old.