I’ve written before about being anxious about reading Jane Austen sequels, and unfortunately I wasn’t too pleased with what I read in the #2 off my reading list Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston.
In fact, when I started reading it, I was struck by the fact that the writing style, which seemed to have been used to remind the reader of Austen’s
very own writing style, was just slightly off. At some point, I got used to it, however, until the last few chapters ruined it all by letting the story drift into a Regency version of Gossip Girl lacking all sense of subtlety and credulity. Allow me to explain.
Basically, this novel concerns the marriage prospects of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet‘s five daughters, reflecting the original novel, which has the same main theme of marriage (and happiness in marriage). The daughters reflect original characters, where Letitia’s personality, the eldest daughter, seems to be a mix of Mrs. Bennet’s obnoxious worrying tendencies, Mary Bennet’s boring and slightly annoying piety, and Jane Bennet’s beauty. The main character of the book is Camilla Bennet, the second eldest daughter, also reflecting the original novel where Elizabeth Bennet is also the second daughter. Camilla is a free spirit, very clever like her mother, but somewhat naive. Then there’s the twins, Belle and Georgina, who closely resemble their aunt Lydia, Elizabeth Bennet’s youngest sister. Finally, the youngest daughter is Alethea Darcy, a music genius. The daughters are under the care of their cousin Fitzwilliam and his wife Fanny as their parents have gone on a business trip to Constantinople.
As I said before, it took me some time to get used to the ‘slightly off’ writing style Aston employs; she does not seem to fully capture the writing used in the era, or perhaps consciously chose to deviate from it. For example, when tensions get high and characters’ emotions rise, they don’t refrain from calling even their family members a ‘slut’. In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth only goes so far as calling Mr. Darcy ‘insufferable’. Anyway, this was still not as bad as when the entire scenario of the novel collapsed into a Regency-style version of Gossip Girl, where apparently the whole of London finds out about the daughters’ missteps 5 minutes after they occur, which is entirely implausible and, frankly, quite uninteresting (let me be clear, Gossip Girl can surely be entertaining, but not combined with Jane Austen characters, since they are kinda holy to me :P). The story contains homosexuality (in any case, even the mention of sex seems inappropriate in an Austen sequel unless it is very well done 😉 ), a very random foot fetish, and some sneaky sex upstairs at a ball. Honestly. Besides this, the characters hardly develop, as they continue to be flat stereotypes. Austen’s characters, on the other hand, can have typical traits, but remain believable at all times, and remind the reader of (often ridiculous) people much like them in their own life.
Besides this, most of it is actually super-predictable. As in, you see it coming about a hundred pages in advance. *SPOILER-ALERT (but not really since it’s all really predictable)* Camilla first falls in love with a douche (reflecting Wickham in the original) and then with a guy she first thought to be a douche, but what a surprise, he was actually quite nice (Mr. Darcy)! The first turns out to be gay (a ‘sodomite’, as it was so nicely put), which Aston attempted to foreshadow by indicating he was very good at picking out clothes for women. Enough said.
Camilla is so obnoxiously naive about everything that is going to happen, which made me actually dislike her, which is not a good quality to have in a main character of a book. Admittedly, it was an easy read throughout most of the thing, except the last couple of chapters turned particularly ridiculous and I had to struggle to get to the end without organising a mass Facebook-event to burn all copies of it. No. I’m exaggerating, but I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar at least once in your lifetime (Twilight? Fifty shades of grey? Whatever, it’s the same thing anyway).
A single thing I liked, which I talked about in my last post, was that Aston included some historical references to events and literature from the time, which I enjoyed. It was interesting to see the characters interact with what was regarded as controversial literature at the time in Britain, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron, which the daughters are not allowed to read by their cousin Fitzwilliam’s orders. I would like to read a good Austen sequel incorporating this aspect in the storyline ;).
In conclusion, DO NOT READ. Sorry, Aston.
For my next post I’m reading Darcy’s Story by Janet Alymer, which I hope will arrive soon (for the Dutchies out there, did you know it is SOOO monumentally much cheaper to order stuff from German Amazon than from Bol.com? I’m truly shocked). On another note, I’ve (finally!) read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I heartily recommend to everyone in contrast to the monster of a book I just reviewed :D.
Reading List (catching up fast! :D):
1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
2. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston (2003)
3. Darcy’s Story, by Janet Alymer (1996)
4. Mr Darcy’s Diary, by Amanda Grange (2006)
5. Pride and Prejudice BBC/PBS miniseries (1980)
6. Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett (1995)
7. Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, by Diana Birchall (2004)
8. Pride and Prejudice A&E/BBC miniseries (1995)
9. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004)
10. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, by Abigail Reynolds (2010)
11. Pride & Prejudice Universal Studios film (2005)
12. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo (2010)