7.29.2010

Review: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: the last man in the world, by Abigail Reynolds

I generally avoid chic-lit when I can. I find it too predictable, too idealistic and often flavorless. When I do pick up chic-lit, it's usually in the form of a Jane Austen "sequel" or a variation on the original novels. Pamela Aidan wrote my favorites of these - her Mr. Darcy, Gentleman trilogy which takes place over the course of Pride & Prejudice. Abigail Reynolds has penned a number of non-sequential Pride and Prejudice variations, each picking a spot in which the story could have changed, but inevitably bringing Elizabeth and Darcy together.


In Impulse & Initiative, Darcy arrives in London after convincing Bingley to vacate Netherfield and upon his return he sees his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy confides in the Colonel that he had fallen for Elizabeth, but that it could not be, etc. etc. etc. and, anticipating the events in Kent (Rosings), the Colonel convinces Darcy to return to Hertfordshire and get the girl. This leads to some uncharacteristic mayhem, a sexy scene in a library (yes!), a rushed marriage, and some other nonsense. But the rest of the story goes on, making certain events expected but, on the other hand, consisting of different motivations and reasoning.

In Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: the last man in the world, however, Reynolds' story maintains a little bit more independence. This time, the change occurs at Rosings - Darcy simply can't contain himself anymore and proposes to Elizabeth in the park. He kisses her, assured of her answer, and they are seen by Colonel Fitzwilliam and some of Lady Catherine's footmen. Of course, in that point in time, Elizabeth's answer WOULD have been a resounding "No way, Jose." But she was compromised and ends up in an unwanted marriage. Eventually it all turns out fine. But I don't buy it.
Impulse & Initiative: What if Mr. Darcy had set out to win Elizabeth's heart? (Pride & Prejudice Variation) 
Darcy is proud, observant of decorum and highly judicious. This change in his behavior goes against everything we know about him and about Elizabeth. The Elizabeth Bennett that Jane Austen wrote would have rallied against Darcy and outed him to his cousin before the damage could be done. The Darcy Jane Austen wrote would have been too shy to rush into a proposal out-of-doors where they could be seen, and then rush in and kiss her. I just can't buy it. And on top of that, the misunderstanding becomes strained and then they spend several chapters apologizing to one another back and forth, and it's just frustrating. No one wants to read that.

In Impulse & Initiative, Darcy and Elizabeth are like TNT & fire. In the other, they're more like a kitchen lighter and an apple-cinnamon-scented Yankee Candle.

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