Mr. Darcy’s Diary (Audiobook), by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my eighth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

Ever wonder if a book you read several years ago and loved still stacks up? I did, and was tempted to revisit one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr. Darcy’s Diary, in audiobook for my summer listening. Read by Mr. Darcy himself—well not quite—but close, the narrator is British actor David Rintoul who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1980 BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. After a second pass “my affections and wishes are unchanged” and I am incorporating my original review (slightly amended) and finishing with my impression of this audio version.

If Jane Austen thought that her novel Pride and Prejudice was too light, bright, and sparkling and wanted shade, then author Maya Slater has made up for any deficit by crossing over to the “dark side” in writing her re-telling of Austen’s classic tale of  misunderstandings and reconciliation. Not only are we privy to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s most intimate and revealing secrets, we see the story of Pride and Prejudice told wholly from the male perspective, and gentle readers, be prepared. It’s a man’s world in Regency England, and dare I say, Fitzy is no saint!

The story opens with Mr. Darcy as a house guest of the Bingley’s at Netherfield Park the night of the Meryton assembly. Caroline Bingley is up to her usual kowtowing activities and insists upon embroidering slippers for Mr. Darcy, even though he inwardly fumes that he has no use for them. He is ruminating over his sister Georgiana’s letter and sees no solution to her predicament, the particulars of which are not yet known to us. The party arrives at the assembly rooms and there is little of interest for him there. Seeing the dance unfold from his perspective is an interesting vantage: the rooms, the music and the “superfluity of raw young ladies eager for dancing partners were all disenchanting to him.” His breeches are too tight so he does not sit down! Beyond the perfunctory dances with his two hostesses, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, he saw nothing in the room to tempt him. No mention is made of his slighting our heroine Elizabeth Bennet, but this is Mr. Darcy’s diary after all, and an event of no consequence to him would surely not be recorded in his personal diary.

Mr. Darcy's Diary, by Maya Slater (2008) audio And so the first few entries of the diary were pleasant enough. The language and style was respectful to Austen’s, the story line consistent with Darcy’s view, and the characters well thought out. A good beginning. My interest builds as I realize that I am reliving Pride and Prejudice from a new perspective, told by an author who understands the novel, is well researched in Regency history and can turn a phrase quite neatly. Better and better. Whoa! Darcy has just admired a housemaid’s “pleasing embonpoint” removed her starched white apron and tumbled her on his bed! (Okay, I just heard the pounding exodus of Austen purist as they run out the back door.) The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. This is not the Darcy that we know from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, and the author has just made her point.

Uncertain if I could get past this bit, I venture on. We follow Darcy to London with his faithful valet Peebles in tow. Their Jeeves and Wooster relationship is amusing. I smile. Darcy unknowingly crumples up his leather gloves in a coat pocket, scuffs his boots, and wants to wear the wrong clothes for the wrong occasion. It is of little consequence to this wealthy and overly confident man, but Peebles is beside himself. I laugh. In addition to Charles Bingley, we are introduced to Darcy’s friend, George Byron. Yes, the poet and notorious, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Byron. He lives up to his reputation and influences Darcy into dubious deeds that most Regency men of his position in society amuse themselves with like cards, drunken debacles, and escapades with women. At this point we are experiencing Darcy from a totally male point-of-view, but the transition into events that Austen would never have included in her heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s female world, are more acceptable because this author’s skill at making Darcy’s diary so believable and amusing is effortless. By the midway point in the diary, it has become a page turner, and I am totally captivated.

So how did author Maya Slater woo a Janeite who openly admits contempt for renovators who sex up or steal Austen’s good name? She actually did not have to. Once I abandoned my expectations of reading another prequel, sequel or re-telling bent on ripping off Jane Austen’s stories or characters, I realized that this was not Elizabeth Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, but Mr. Darcy’s, and Maya Slater was not renovating Jane or sexing up Lizzy but telling a man’s story. What other authors have attempted in their Darcy re-tellings by mirroring Jane Austen’s text word-for-word has been replaced by sheer creativity and respect. Slater expands our understanding of the plot and characters that Jane Austen introduced making Mr. Darcy’s Diary unique and yet blend-able to the original story. It made me laugh-out-loud repeatedly as she expounded on the smarmy antics of Caroline Bingley whose continued attempts to worm her way into Darcy’s affections fall flat, fume over the officious arrogance of his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, hiss at the deceit and destruction caused by that lout George Wickham, and revel in a love story that I listened to as freshly and intensely as the first time this writer experienced the original many years ago. That, gentle Austen readers, is quite an achievement. Even Mr. Darcy might consider Maya Slater worthy of inclusion in “the half a dozen women in the whole range of (his) acquaintance that are truly accomplished.”

My original review of this novel was 4 out of 5 stars, but I am upping the audio version to top honors of 5 stars because of the captivating, velvety voice of actor David Rintoul. Wow. He is just perfection.

 5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Diary, (audiobook) by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul
AudioGO Ltd. & Audible.com (2008)
Unabridged digital download (8 hours and 33 mins)
ASIN: B001LNK94C

Please join us for next month’s Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge when we review Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004) on Wednesday, September 11, 2013.

Cover image courtesy of AudioGo © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

32 thoughts on “Mr. Darcy’s Diary (Audiobook), by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul – A Review

  1. This was one of the earlier JAFF that I read, and I remember being put off a bit by the whole Maid Thing and thinking Darcy was a bit crude. But I’d be willing to read it again one of these days to see if I can like and appreciate it more. Maybe the audio book next time! ;)

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  2. I haven’t read this one, but I’m interested to see that you’ve given the audio book a higher rating than the original book. I guess having the right narrator, and especially a male narrator for a very male book must make a difference.

    I’ve still not seen 1980 P&P so I don’t kn

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    • Whoops, sorry, was on my phone!

      I was going to say that since I’ve not yet seen the 1980s P&P the only knowledge I have of Rintoul’s voice is the voice work he does for the cartoon of Peppa Pig, but I would categorise both Mr Bull the bin man and Grandad Dog as gravelly, so I am glad he doesn’t sound like that when he is voicing Darcy!

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  3. Charlotte Collins – Jennifer Becton
    This is my tenth review for the Jane Austen Challenge
    In this book the reader meets Charlotte Collins again and observes how life goes for her.
    I was intrigued as books that are a continuation of Pride and Prejudice generally focus on Elizabeth and Darcy but this one goes off down a delightful different tangent.
    It was interesting to see how Charlotte Collins moved on from the death of the pompous silly Rev Collins and pick up her life again and moves on from a long period of mourning. Will Charlotte’s view on marriage alter at all and will she see the place of love or will she still believe that marriage for her is purely to gain a house, a husband a place in society and so have some security in life and not be a burden to her family?
    The book starts following the funeral of Rev Collins and Charlotte moves house within the de Bourgh estate. Charlotte’s sister Maria Lucas moves in with her. They live a quiet life together in a cottage belonging to and rented from Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Maria and Charlotte start to go out in society more so that Maria can begin to look for a husband. I did not like the way the author depicted the struggle Charlotte Collins had after the death of her husband until I began to see that the writing was mirroring Charlotte feeling grief and finding her way in a difficult situation.
    How to find her own place in society and how to help Maria find a husband without being too forward were Charlotte’s goals?

    Mr James Westfield and Maria dance together at a winter ball at Westerham and Mr Jonas Card tries to offer Maria a cool drink but Maria waves away the offer of a beverage. Maria enjoys her evening but it takes a long while for Maria to find true love and decide which man James or Jonas she loves in return.
    Charlotte too has admirers at the ball and unexpectedly enjoys being out in society. Charlotte has caught the eye of two men- Mr. Benjamin Basford and Mr. Lewis Edgington However one is set to ruin her by placing her in a difficult position that will ruin her in the eyes of society – Which one could lead to her downfall? It is far from clear and I found it was enjoyable to read how things turn out for the sisters.

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  4. Always interesting to hear of your P&P reading/listening ventures, Laurel Ann. For me, this one is not the Darcy characterization I’ve come to expect from JA, and would be a disappointment to his image as the gentleman JA created. If it was written/recorded as a novel without trading on JA, that would be a totally diff story! Thx for the headsup…

    Adding my August participation reviews for the P&P Bicentenary HERE

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  5. I haven’t read this one yet and I appreciate the warning that Darcy was a typical male. It doesn’t put me off when writers do that, but it always startles me. I loved David Rintouls voice in the movie so I would find it a plus to hear the audio version for certain.

    My entry toward the challenge for this month was a retelling from Darcy’s perspective too. Nancy Kelley’s His Good Opinion and here’s the link to my review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/678889311
    That makes my count fourteen toward the goal.

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  6. Since Darcy is specifically meant to be better than the “typical male” of the time period, and particularly not susceptible to outside influence, I don’t think I could set aside my pre-conceived notions enough to read this book. Thank you for the review, though.
    This month, I read Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer: http://lingeringpianist.blogspot.com/2013/08/p-challenge-darcys-story.html
    I found it very enjoyable, and there’s a great sketch of Darcy included in my post!

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  7. Reviewers Note: I want to add a “fair warning” alert. I enjoyed this audiobook version thoroughly, but this book appears to create black or white reactions from its readers. This is an interesting topic unto itself, but the character of Mr. Darcy is sacred ground, and when you reveal another possible vantage of his character, specifically the un-saintly side of gentlemen in Regency England, you take the risk of offending those that do not want to think he was not a virgin and totally beyond the dubious activities that men of his rank might have participated in. This is Darcy’s story, so be prepared for activities beyond the pale.

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  8. Hi great review Laurel Ann I usually do an Amazon search but I haven’t come across this one. I totally agree you have to be prepared, I felt that mixture of black and white while reading Mr Darcy takes a wife. Here are my reviews for this month, I went to see a theatre production of P&P at Chatsworth house, they also had a small exhibition of the 2005 P&P so watched that as well enjoy the pics.
    An arranged marriage by Jan Hahn http://tamaraausten77.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/an-arranged-marriage-by-jahn-hann.html
    When they fall in love by Mary Simonsen http://tamaraausten77.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/when-they-fall-in-love-by-mary-lydon.html
    Mr Darcy’ s Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds

    http://tamaraausten77.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/mr-darcys-noble-connections-abigail.html

    Theatre production of P&P at Chatsworth

    http://tamaraausten77.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/pride-prejudice-at-chatsworth-house-my.html

    P&P 2005 at Chatsworth

    http://tamaraausten77.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/pride-prejudice-at-chatsworth-house-my.html

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      • Impressive more like obsessive lol I’ve never been to the bath festival but would love to go and it would be lovely to meet you too. I’m starting Uni in September so might be difficult would also need to rope in my sister in law if she can get time off work! What days do you go or are you there all week? Are you going to to dress up in the parade?

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  9. I’m still too new to JAFF to try this one but I will add to my list as eventual.

    My August entry is P&P Mini-series A&E/BBC 1995:
    My 1st time watching this one. Even though I’m a fan of the 2005 movie I have to admit this one is better. Being a mini-series there was more detail but some of the changes the 2005 movie made was unneeded and would have been better if left the way this one did it. I like that you see both sides not just Lizzy’s. Colin Firth is truely the best Mr. Darcy, he’s so great at showing his feelings. This version does make the story seem more complete. Showing what Mr. Darcy feels & thinks & goes through, makes you like him even more. Nice to see double wedding and Mr. Darcy so happy :) I want to watch again! Of course I was happy to finally see the famous wet white shirt scene. Want to see another: Bridget Jones 2 Edge of Reason. lol

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  10. August was going to be skipped, but I had to write to thank Laurel Ann for another excellent review and for introducing another source of Jane Austenesque enjoyment! I have long wished to find some of the books we have been reading in audiobook format, as I’ve about worn out all my Jane Austen ones! :-) This particular book will not be one I read, however, as I prefer to maintain my original idea of Mr. Darcy!

    I read an interesting sequel by Karen Aminadra, “Charlotte – Pride and Prejudice Continues” that I must have learned about from one of the reviews listed here. I would like to find it and re-read that person’s impression of the book. I have always liked Charlotte and was delighted to see a continuation of her story and learn about the delightful new friends she made and how she resisted Lady Catherine’s over the top controlling. It was pleasant to see an expansion of her character, but I was disappointed in the portrayal of Col. Fitzwilliam, also a favorite, and a portion of the part he plays in the story. I won’t say more so not to spoil the story for someone else, but would love to hear other impressions. Nevertheless, I enjoyed her book very much and plan to read the 2nd in the series, “Rosings”.

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  11. It is a trust universally acknowledged that friendships forged over a love of Jane Austen last forever!

    Georgiana earned heroine status in her own right in “Georgiana’s Diary” by Anna Elliott. The story begins with Georgiana facing many of the typical issues a young lady of her station faces when coming out. The diary format allowed us to more intimately connect with Georgiana and her full understanding of her suitors’ motives. She saw through her suitors’ false flattery and her aunt’s meddling. Her heart was true and steady. She also had strength when setting aside her passion to provide Fitzwilliam the friendship he needed while managing through his PTSD.

    Georgiana’s determination to follow her heart captivated us, even when she feared her love was not returned. We can also appreciate Colonel Fitzwilliam’s struggle in defending Georgiana’s honor and supporting her as a guardian, all the while loving her in secret. The romantic banter between her and Fitzwilliam added to the escalation of their love.

    The characters that we thought we knew in Pride & Prejudice took significant twists in Georgiana’s Diary. This was true for Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley, and Georgiana herself. We loved that Anne was Georgiana’s pet project and through her friendship blossomed. And, can we talk about Lady Catherine marrying the fortune-seeking charlatan?? Really? Our prior perception of her is captured in the following quote: “Anyone who makes other people as miserable as she does cannot be very happy herself.” This book seeks to expose Lady Catherine’s vulnerability and ignorance where flattery is given.

    It was a pleasure to get to know Georgiana, one of Jane Austen’s more reserved characters, better. We are looking forward to following on directly with “Pemberley to Waterloo” next month.

    Jacinta & Nicole

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