26 June 2013

The Second Mrs. Darcy & Reflections: the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

I am of the mindset that time is limited in our short lives and we shouldn't waste it doing shit we don't want to unless it somehow contributes to the quality of life (i.e. working, confronting someone who hurt you, doing laundry). So.... I was supposed to read these two books this month and would have done so if Reflections wasn't so terrible.

I couldn't make it through the Prologue without heckling the writing and rolling my eyes every couple of pages. Reflections is a modern day P&P adaptation beginning when Elizabeth shows up at Pemberly after spurning Darcy's proposal and they literally run into each other. Elizabeth's friends continue to the Lake District, but Lizzie stays behind to spend a week with Darcy, Georgianna, and the Bingleys. Darcy and Elizabeth grow closer, and one afternoon while on an intimate picnic they have sex... a few times.

Somehow the drama with Lydia drives a wedge so deep between Will (that's what he's called by the author in the book) and Liz that they don't see each other until Bingley and Jane's wedding, where an intoxicated Will is caught messing around with another woman and assumptions are made even though nothing happened. Liz then finds out she's preggers and that's when I gave up.

While the premise is fine, the plot points felt contrived and based purely on the assumption that everyone is a terrible communicator. However, the writing and dialogue is what drove me to the brink of chucking my Kindle at the window.

It's a modern day adaptation: Darcy and Elizabeth would NOT call each other "Mr. Darcy" and "Miss Bennet," they'd say "Will" and "Liz" (or whatever). Furthermore, the wording of the dialogue would sometimes be modern, sometimes be Austenesque...ish, and just sounded unintelligent. Even the narrative seemed confused, as if Gonschior couldn't decide what time period to write the novel. It's not engaging, painful to read, and has the tone of a first draft journal of a Pride and Prejudice fantasy.


Doing a complete 180, The Second Mrs. Darcy by Elizabeth Aston-- a book I read years ago that's the fourth in a six part series-- is great. The series needs a bit of an introduction so bear with me.

Each book in the series has a separate story-- they're not sequels-- with recurring characters from the previous books. It begins with Mr. Darcy's Daughters: Darcy and Elizabeth have 5 daughters and two younger sons (away at school) and the girls, ranging from ages 15 to 22-ish, are sent to stay with relatives in London while Mr. & Mrs. Darcy are in Constantinople. The daughters find themselves in a few social scrapes and romantic entanglements, but everything ends somewhat happily as Jane Austen would have written. Aston does a fantastic job recreating that world and the fashions, as well as following the language styles without the books being difficult to read. 

With Aston's JAFF, she creates another world with new characters and situations rather than begin during or right after Darcy and Elizabeth's love story. In fact, Darcy & Elizabeth aren't in the books until the sixth.... which might bother die hards, but I love it.

The Second Mrs. Darcy begins in India with the recently widowed Octavia Darcy-- formerly Octavia Melbury-- who was the second wife of Christopher Darcy (hence the title). Octavia is a the half sister of the high & mighty Melbury clan who see Octavia as a burden rather than family. As a result, Octavia has a skewed opinion of marriage and rather than marry again at her old age of 25, she wants to remain single. However, she's dirt poor since Christopher's estate is entailed to his cousin, George Warren, a known villain throughout the series as he's the favorite stepson of Caroline Bingley. Octavia's fortunes change suddenly when a lawyer for an unknown great aunt on her mother's side shows up declaring her the inheritor of a massive fortune. Octavia returns to London keeping her fortune a secret while dealing with frustrating relatives, making new friends, and building a new life. Conflicts arise, sexual tension grows, and choices must be made.

While it's not my favorite of the Aston series, Octavia is a quietly strong female coming into her own and overall an admirable character. The story is somewhat predictable if you've read a few of these before, but for me it's about the journey, not the destination. Even though I enjoyed the book and two main characters, the romance happened late and fast-- in the last third of the book-- and the chemistry felt forced. Plus the whole thing wrapped up too conveniently in a nice pretty package with a bow on top. Overall, an good read that will satisfy Janeites. 

DISCLAIMER: I will be reading Mr. Darcy's Dream-- the sixth in Aston's series-- for June as the replacement for Reflections. I probably won't post about it since the book is similar to The Second Mrs. Darcy... maybe.

03 June 2013

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Even though my very first P&P experience was the film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, my second was the miniseries starring Colin Firth (yum) and Jennifer Ehle... and I count that one as the true first since it's so closely connected to the novel.

If I'm being totally honest... I didn't get a chance to watch the series last month what with the cross country move, starting a new job, and adjusting to life back in the Midwest. But as I've watched it regularly for the last 10 years, I can manage a suitable review.

The strength in the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries lies in its close adaptation to the book with a few nuances for the viewing audience. It captures the beauty of the English country life, the period clothing, as well as boasting a stellar cast. Colin Firth is an excellent, sexy, stoic Darcy, while Jennifer Ehle achieves the constant smirk I imagine Lizzy always having on her face when I picture her character.

However, there are a few weaknesses with this series, namely the character of Mrs. Bennett being a caricature rather than a person with dimension. She's obnoxious without the human side for people to understand she's simply doing her job. Mr. Collins is one dimensional but that was always the point. Other issues are the age inaccuracies of the characters, as well as the physical description interpretations.

What I mean by that is.... IMHO, Lizzy is much prettier than Jane! Everyone in the film does a great job acting, but Jane is supposed to be a beauty and I just don't see it. Even Charlotte Lucas is more fetching than Jane.

Finally, I know certain die hards take issue with the soaked Darcy emerging from the trees-- it's a little too much sex or some such nonsense. Firth is hot, Darcy is one of the sexiest characters in literature, and the filmmakers just wanted to create a visual for the women who've enjoyed the man in their imaginations for years. Lighten up and enjoy the view!

Have you seen the 1995 miniseries? What are your thoughts on the sexy scene with Darcy: does it cheapen the story or add to it?