Mr. Darcy. That iconic romantic hero who launched a thousand sequels! A quick and very unscientific audit of Amazon.com listings revealed over thirty-five books published in the last fifteen years inspired by him! That’s a lot of Mr. Darcy out there being a haughty heartthrob. Now in his latest outing, Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, we are offered yet another chance to relive the famous love story, but from his perspective.
Fitzwilliam Darcy arrives in Hertfordshire with his best friend Mr. Bingley to assist him with his new estate Netherfield Park convinced that the locals will be bumpkins, and SO below his notice. He attends the local Assembly dance where his predictions prove true; even the reputed local beauty Elizabeth Bennet is only tolerable, and not handsome enough to tempt him. And so on it goes; the same story that we all know and love. Their courtship lasts a little over a year and in that time we experience all the misapprehensions and conflicts that define their relationship. All told they are only together three out the twelve months, so what did Darcy do in the in-between time, especially after his rejected first marriage proposal and their renewed acquaintance at Pemberley? What transpired in his mind that so changed him that he was a different man when they meet again?
Now we do not have to guess at the answers any longer as they have been neatly explained for us like a Sparks Notes re-telling of Pride and Prejudice as author Regina Jeffers literally walks us through each important scene including complete passages of dialogue from Austen’s novel framed by her reinterpretations of some of the most beautiful lines in classic literature. Ouch! If this didn’t set your hair on fire, then her interjections of character motivation might just do the trick.
For some readers who are experiencing this story for the first time this style of translation might be a perk, but to those Austen addicts who have read the novel or seen the movie adaptations and know the dialogue, it will be as startling as Mary Bennet’s singing. Paraphrasing Austen is a sticky wicket. Why mess with a masterpiece? Either you commit to lifting lines straight from the novel and give Jane Austen half the writing credit or you don’t use them at all and create your own scenes and dialogue. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Putting aside my puzzlement of Jeffers choice to borrow and re-phrase Austen’s text, she does an excellent job of viewing the story from Mr. Darcy’s perspective and focusing on the personal growth he undergoes to become a better man and win Elizabeth’s love. All in all I enjoyed her Mr. Darcy very much and it was great fun to walk a mile in his big black shiny Hessian boots.
Surprisingly, the story does not end with Darcy’s second proposal and Austen’s final wrap-up. And to think that we had all assumed that Darcy and Elizabeth’s transformation had been complete; her prejudices removed and his pride properly humbled. Obviously Jeffers did not agree and decided to devote the last third of the book to the honeymoon and their new life together at Pemberley. I found this choice to re-write Austen’s ending and additional storyline perplexing. With this final affront to Austen genius, I needed to remember that I had not yet made “allowance enough for difference of situation and temper.” Neophytes who have not experienced Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or seen any of the many movie adaptations will enjoy this book exactly how it is written. In that light it does have its merits, though sadly because of the irritating paraphrasing I must disqualify it as my Holy Grail of Mr. Darcy paraliterature. *Sigh* Tomorrow is another day!
3 out of 5 Stars
Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes: A Novel, by Regina Jeffers
Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA (2009)
Trade paperback (236) pages
Cover image courtesy of Ulysses Press © 2009; text