Sunday, May 20, 2012

Darcy's Passions, by Regina Jeffers

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have something of an addictive personality.  When I got back into drinking tea, I dropped over $150 in buying Twinnings while I was in London; when I knit, I don’t just make myself a scarf, I make myself several scarves and some for my friends; when I find an author I like, I buy and read all their works in quick succession.  So, really, no one should be surprised that following my reading of Pride and Prejudice, I decided to read an homage to Austin’s master-piece which tell the same story (and a little extra) from Mr. Darcy’s point of view.

Darcy’s Passions, by self-professed Austin-addict Regina Jeffers, is the second-half of Austin’s story.  P&P is the telling of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s love story from her perspective; as Jeffers (rightly) points out, Darcy is a secondary character in P&P who isn’t actually around very much.  Jeffers set out to give readers an impression of what Darcy was thinking and feeling throughout the tumultuous year that was Elizabeth and Darcy’s courtship.

The premise for the book is, obviously, Darcy’s three passions: the love of his life, Elizabeth; his ancestral estate, Pemberley; and his little sister, Georgiana.  Jeffers does a great job in expressing the emotional turmoil that Darcy faces in trying to reconcile all three.  In what is probably one of the worst proposals in literary history, Austin has Darcy tell Elizabeth that despite everything she is, he fell in love with her; Jeffers picked up this prideful and prejudicial comment (see what I did there?) and ran with it – pre-proposal Darcy is an arrogant twat; post-proposal Darcy is a kind and respectful character.  Jeffers uses the few indicators provided to us by Austin in the original work to be guide-posts for her own Darcy’s character development; an admirable decision.

If there is one flaw in this work, it’s that the author is trying to capture the voice of the Regency-era female writer too hard.  Jeffers doesn’t end her tale where Austin did – rather, the reader is treated to an insight into Darcy and Elizabeth’s first two months of marriage.  For readers who love the original story, this is like a little bonus.  However, the profuse expressions of love from Elizabeth and Darcy get to be so repetitive that one might almost wish this peek behind the curtain didn’t happen.  A major complaint of contemporaries about female authors was that the voice of their male characters weren’t sincere; clearly written by a woman, the male voice because overly effusive in proclamation of love.  Critics felt that ‘real’ men of the era would never do this.  (This was something Austin never did in P&P, but that I commented on in my review of Jane Eyre.)  Jeffers, however, falls into this trap.  For lack of a better description, it’s like two thirteen year old Justin Beiber fans got married and can’t stop telling each other how much they love being together and why.  It gets old.  Fast.

But, that’s the beauty of fan-fiction.  The author gets to do whatever they’d like to the characters.  (And thank god this isn’t a horribly modern-iteration with all the homo-erotic undertones that usually go along with the genre.)  Being so beloved, Austin’s work(s) is a lightening-rod for modern authors who want to pick up where she left off and give readers more details.  You can’t walk through a Chapters without spotting at least a half-dozen of these types of work.  I don’t think I’ll explore anymore though; I like how Jeffers explored and fleshed out the tale, and I’m perfectly content to live with her interpretation of what happened next.

So, final verdict?  Read Pride and Prejudice.  I know, that’s not what you’re expecting, but how can I tell you to read Darcy’s Passions if you don’t read the inspiration for the work first?  Now, once you’ve read P&P, Darcy’s Passions is a great idea.  In terms of Austin-inspired work it’s charming and does a great job at filling in holes, and giving readers a satisfying conclusion.  It might be a little too self-aware in certain passages, but these are easily overlooked in favour of the whole story.  However, since I’ve not read any other P&P fan fiction (with the exception of the P&P&Zombies series, and that doesn’t count), I can’t tell you how this one stacks up against the rest.  But, I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to others.

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