1.02.2010

Review: The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Mary Street

Perhaps when it was published back in 1999, this book was a sufficient reflection in Fitzwilliam Darcy's mirror. It's very well-written, captures his voice quite well, and does not draw censure from parties who wish Austen-based novels to remain in pure form. There are no new characters introduced, the time line is in-tact and the silent character development for which Austen laid the foundation is tolerably built up. And in 1999 that was fair. Mary Street was, perhaps, less influenced by Colin Firth than many more recent adaptations and continuations have shown their authors to be.

For instance, in the Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice, he has his valet dress him in his green coat when he goes on a solitary ride to Lambton and seeks Lizzy out (just after she has read Jane's letters re: Lydia & Wickham). Also, the scene in that version where Jane says "Mr. Darcy? Does he know our troubles?" and Lizzy goes on to explain that he happened upon her just as she finished the letter, etc. And they discuss how he shall not be renewing his addresses and will make sure his friend, etc.... and the assumption is that Darcy meant to propose again. Okay. Both of these are conjecture on the part of that script.

Ms. Street does not adhere to it. For the former, she refuses to acknowledge any sort of color choice. For the latter, she chooses another cause for his visit in having driven the narrative to its likely conclusions. Instead of a proposal, he has gone to seek out her opinion of Jane's feelings for Bingley so that he knows how to proceed with his friend. Though I must admit, Ms. Street's Darcy -- had he found Lizzy in a less distressing situation -- may have ended up renewing his addresses anyway. But see how her choices are not affected by the new popular culture.

In comparison, Pamela Aidan's These Three Remain (the third book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series) which covers the second half of Austen's novel, from Darcy's perspective, shows how the Colin Firth Syndrome has spread in more recent years. Her novel from 2005 not only has him about to renew his addresses (in a dashingly romantic and wonderful fashion) but has him select a green coat!

That being said, the purist in me preferred Mary Street's light and reflective first person prose and I enjoyed the expansions of certain characters. But Pamela Aidan's trilogy allows my inner romantic to smother my Janeite purist in her sleep. The distinction I think lies in the target audience. Both sets of people want to read a Darcy-perspective version of P&P. But one group wants to get to the point, the other group wants to enjoy the book. I think that's why Aidan's got not one, but three books to be enjoyed. She doesn't seek to get to the point because she knows her audience is not only made up of staunch Janeites, but of book-lovers. And when, in Aidan's series, Darcy retains the lock of silk embroidery threads that Elizabeth had accidentally left in the library, installed as a bookmark in Milton's Paradise Lost and uses it throughout the series as a charm....the romantic in me stomps all over the purist and cries tears of joy.

But enough of that. Next on the list - Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

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