Welcome to my third Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge post! Today I will be reviewing Darcy’s Story (1996), by Janet Aylmer, which luckily I enjoyed much better than the previous book I reviewed, Mr. Darcy’s Daughters. I was almost starting to think that perhaps fan-fiction wasn’t my thing, but it turns out to be quite appetizing when well done ;).
Firstly, let me tell you what I’ve been up to for the last month. I have moved to Maastricht and am now enrolled in the Research Master’s program on Neuroeconomics. So far, I am really enjoying my new life: I adore my new lovely little room with the cute furniture I bought at the thrift shop next door (may post pictures soon 😉 ), I’ve joined a rowing association – the initiation was pretty tough, but I’m glad I’ve joined: the rowing is really fun and it’s a nice way to meet new people -, and I still sometimes visit my old uni in Utrecht. The amount of work I need to do at university is only a fraction of what I was used to doing during my bachelor’s and Maastricht University is being quite difficult about me doing extra courses or an additional master’s program, unfortunately. On the upside, perhaps that means I will have some more time to blog.
I was pleasantly surprised by this elegant take on the original novel by Jane Austen. This book describes all events that occur in Pride & Prejudice, but takes them on from a different perspective: Mr. Darcy’s. Since Mr. Darcy remains quite a mysterious character in Austen’s work, Aylmer’s story fills a need many Austen fans have felt for a long time to understand the workings of Darcy’s mind and to see some of Elizabeth Bennet’s own questions about this peculiar, rich, young man answered. In my opinion, Aylmer has succeeded greatly in this endeavor, and her book is a treat for anybody who is well familiar with the original novel. I especially admire Aylmer’s use of the original dialogue, which provides an accurate indication of how the novel relates to the original story, and which Aylmer manages to blend in almost flawlessly with the prose she wrote herself. Many critics argue that because of use of the original text, the novel is unoriginal. On the contrary, I believe it requires great creativity and skill to be able to write a whole new world of thoughts around an already existing text. Granted, it does not move the reader as much as an original story would, but it is pleasant reading nonetheless, especially for the fanatic Jane Austen fan, who has read the original novel multiple times. I’m pretty sure, though, that I might be slightly biased in liking this book’s faith to the original plot, just because I hated Mr. Darcy’s Daughters so much, which was completely unfaithful to Austen’s original characters and style. It might have been interesting to see Mr. Darcy’s story told in a different writing style, though, as many critics have commented. Aylmer carefully managed to imitate Austen’s writing style, but this writing style perhaps more carefully reflected Elizabeth’s character than it did Darcy’s.
Basically, Aylmer portrays Mr. Darcy as an inherently good man, who appears snobbish to those not intimate to him, as he is simply too shy and socially awkward to be pleasant to people. Also, he is raised to feel and act superior to others, which is a way to compensate for his many flaws. Elizabeth points this inappropriate sense of superiority and pride out to him, which greatly shocks him and causes him to try to better himself. This works out brilliantly as is both clear from this novel as well as the original.
Also, Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s sister, is elaborated on in much more length than in Austen’s original, which is very interesting, yet true to the original plot. Events that are only retold by Mr. Darcy in the original, are described in full detail by Aylmer, which provide greater understanding of both Mr. Darcy and Georgiana. Besides this, the relationship between Georgiana and her brother is heartwarming and expands on Austen’s report that Darcy was very fond of his sister.
Darcy’s Story was published after the release of the BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries in 1995. In an interesting post by Austenprose, it is explained that many sequels and alternative versions to Pride & Prejudice were published as a result of these miniseries, due to the captivating character of Mr. Darcy portrayed by a stunning Colin Firth; a phenomenon they appropriately named ‘The Wet Shirt Darcy Explosion’. Indeed, the Mr. Darcy described by Aylmer seems to very well fit Firth’s interpretation of the character. However, as I mentioned before, part of Mr. Darcy’s appeal is his mystery. Removing this mystery by regarding Pride & Prejudice‘s events from his perspective, might also partly remove his appeal to readers. With this vague suggestion, and the conclusion that Darcy’s Story is a nice, easy read, that I can recommend to anybody familiar with the original story, I will leave you for the time being :).
1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
2. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston (2003)
3. Darcy’s Story, by Janet Aylmer (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)