From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
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 the story entitled The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy. Not only are we privy to 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.
And so it was with a heavy heart that I cracked open yet another Darcy discourse ready to rip it to shreds like Lydia Bennet’s famous bonnet. 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, and 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! 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 trudge 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 sequel 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. It made me laugh-out-loud repeatedly and revel in a love story that I read 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.”
5 out of 5 Stars
- The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, A Novel by Maya Slater
- W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York (2009)
- Trade paperback, (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-0393336368
- Genre: Austenesque, Historical Romance
We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company © 2009; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2009, austenprose.com
I’ve got this in my book queue. Have no idea when I’ll have time to read it.
There’s something I’m not sure I understand about the book. I have nothing against sex in stories, and I never thought that Darcy was saint, but isn’t this Darcy still having sex with other women after having fallen in love with Lizzy at Netherfield? There’s a huge difference between having pleasure and being disloyal, but since I haven’t read the book I might be completely wrong about it.
Sylwia – after Darcy leaves Netherfield he is strongly attracted to Elizabeth and trying to resist his feeling. I don’t think he realizes he is truely in love with her until they meet again at Pemberley, as she does too. All of his other daliances are a distraction to his obession of thinking about her. The author does a great job of relaying his inner struggle and how he deals with it. I found being inside Darcy’s brain fascinating. Thanks for your comment. Cheers, Laurel Ann
WOW Do you mean that he kept bedding other women until Pemberley?
I understand that you’re commenting on the development of Darcy’s feelings in Slater’s book, because in Austen’s it’s clear that he fell in love yet at Netherfield and his feelings were fully realised by him at least by Hunsford.
Does one have to realise one’s feelings in order to act on them? Actually it’s rather the opposite. We know that we’re in love by analysing our unconscious reactions, i.e. we can think only of the one person and we become totally disinterested in others, or even oblivious to others as was in Darcy’s case.
It doesn’t mean that the book isn’t well written and interesting. Your review is great, as always, and peaked my curiosity (that’s why I went to check more details). I just object to Slater’s characterisation that distorts the original. I.e. yes, I can imagine that one might write a virgin Darcy or Darcy a rake up to the point of his falling in love, and both interpretations would be plausible according to Austen’s novel, but once he falls in love he can’t possibly bed other women unless he’s a schizophrenic, or simply a worthless guy who’ll keep bedding them for ever, especially some years after marrying Elizabeth when his attraction to her falters. After all it’ll never be stronger than what it was at Netherfield or Hunsford.
Slater’s book seems to be mis-categorised. It should be a ‘what if’ story rather than a parallel retelling. I.e. what if Darcy were another man and hadn’t fall in love until Pemberley. And he must be another man, because Austen’s Darcy would never propose to a woman to whom he was only attracted to. Then it’d be fine. There are many ‘what if’ stories, and some are pretty good.
Thanks for your review, Laurel Ann. I really enjoy reading them!
Sylwia, I have long been convinced that Darcy’s first proposal was motivated by different reasons than pure love: infatuation, desire, wanting something that is forbidden or not the choice that your family or society would wish you to make. His choice of words and attitude reflects his conflicted desire, and he aknowledges it. He says he ardently admires and loves her, but does he? Does he really know her well enough to be in love with her? Love can take many forms but should be formed through respect. I do not think Darcy respects Lizzy enough at this point to sincerely love her. I honestly do not think either of them know how to love each other until after Rosing, and they are apart and can reevaluate. When they both meet again at Pemberley, Darcy is a changed man, humbled, forgiving, less arrogant and attentive. Elizabeth reacts to this and then comes to realize her growing attraction and love. Austen does not tell us what Darcy did between Rosings and Pemberley. Much of this novel fills in that blank. It is one person’s perspective. I enjoyed it, unsaintly Darcy and all. ;-)
But if you’re not going to write Jane Austen’s Darcy, then why call him Darcy? He’s an original character, and using Jane Austen’s character’s names to get your characters accepted or your book published is, IMO, the most distasteful sort of carpetbagging, no matter how interesting the book might be. Any author who does any thoughtful consideration of P&P or research into the life and thoughts of the author who created him should know that Jane Austen’s Darcy would not assault maidservants, nor would he be friends with Byron.
Mags – I think that the author’s point is that we do not know Austen’s Darcy when he is away from the narrative in the original story. There are blocks of time when he and Elizabeth are separated. As most men of his station, they had manly entertainments and diversions. This book is a view of Darcy that we may not of expeted. It is different than other Darcy’s diary’s already published. To me, it explained why Darcy is so arrogant in Hertfordshire, conflicted after he meets Elizabeth, and why he tries to resist his feeling. I found the author’s take fresh, funny and satisfying. It is a controversial view, but very well written.
Mags: Agree 100%!!!
I think we do know Jane Austen’s Darcy… For instance, Jane’s idea of a bad man was Whickam (Wiloughby); a man who liked to sex it up with many ladies, and run up debts. Darcy was the opposite of that. His kind and gentleman-like feelings were all revealed in his final speech to Lizzie on their walk. Totally not something that would have come from a bodice ripping, run with the bad boys, kind of guy.
I just got done reading “Mr. Darcy’s Diary” by Amanda Grange, and thought Jane would really be pleased with it. (& I loooved it!!!) It sounded like her Darcy, not some modern Darcy made to excite housewives who think it would be exciting and sexy if Darcy could have thrown them into his bed. In my opinion, the thought of Darcy being a bad boy with an attitude like Whickman is wrong and revolting, and there is no way I’m touching this book.
Good review though. :D
Thanks for your thoughtful reply Ainsley. As always, I value your opinion, but, please try not to marginalize housewives. Even though I have never had the luxury to be one myself, they deserve our respect just like us working stiffs. People who want to be thrown into bed by Darcy should be judged by their own merits, not their social status. ;-) That is just too Lady Catherineish for my sensibilites.
No, that was poorly worded and I do apologize. :) Perhaps I should have said, the housewives who enjoy watching modern soap operas all day, and can’t read enough bodice ripping romances. In my opinion, that’s the complete opposite of Jane’s writing. If they enjoy it, hey, fine by me! Whatever works for them, haha. But, it tends to really irk me when writers rip off Jane’s amazing characters to make a storyline of theirs sell better, or get more attention. On the other hand, everyone IS entitled to their personal opinion, and instead of Marcy, who lives down the street sharing that kind of opinion about Mr. Darcy, we get authors who share it world wide. I am thusly thankful for opinions like Amanda Grange’s and Pamela Aiden’s on Darcy. :P Theirs seemed to really understand Darcy, and not seem so far fetched. In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed the book! I am working on being more open minded about reading books dealing with any of Jane’s stories. I admire you’re open mind. :)
Up next is “The Bingleys and The Darcys”. Someone said there’s something in the book about “Karma Sutra”. Wow, now I’ve got to give myself props for still venturing out to read it in a few days, hehehe.
Ainsley – I will be interested to know what you think of The Darcys and the Bingleys. Yes, a book matching the description of the Karma Sutra is prominent in this novel. I hope you are not shocked. ;-) Please read it with a light heart.
lol, no, not shocked at all. It seems like a real enough situation and should be a very fun read. :)
Can I join the debate? I appreciate that it can be hard to accept, but researching my novel, I found that young gentlemen of Mr Darcy’s class were expected to lose their virginity. Their fathers were even known to organize the event with a reliable ‘teacher’. I never thought of Darcy as dissolute – but he was a conventional member of his social class, and that was how they behaved. Of course his affections remained untouched, and his heart was pure. After he has fallen hopelessly in love with Elizabeth, he tries everything to rid himself of his obsession – violent exercise, serious study, even, occasionally, sleeping with women – but nothing helps dull the pain.
It was difficult for me as a modern writer to take on board this attitude to women and sex in a character I admired, but I felt I had no option but to accept the conventions of his time. Jane Austen herself implies extra-marital sex in a matter-of-fact way, for instance in the parentage of Harriet Smith.
I am extremely skeptical of all these books that have appropriated Ms. Austen’s characters. So, I’m not interested in this book. I think the book design is great, though.
Btw, I respect you enormously for having such an open attitude to them. :)
It was a good story, but a bit disturbing that Darcy is so free with his body, especially in the presence of Lord Bryon. Charles comes as the better person in this one. I think what has upset most others is that it conflicts with what we believe Darcy to be. We want him to be noble (and many other books keep to this, even presenting Darcy as a virgin prior to marriage), but I think that he would have been influenced more by his society and a man of his class likely would have acted as this book’s character.
As for the Darcy’s and Bingley’s, it was a good story and the use of the “kama sutra” humorous and not overtly sexual. The competition between the men is fun.
Miss Slater–Thanks for joining in. :D
I’m not shocked that Darcy had slept with women before marriage, in Darcys & Bingleys, which I am reading now, it is made very clear that Darcy had slept with other women before. Fine by me–seems like Darcy.
The thing that makes me uncomfortable was the fact that he slept with women after he had fallen for Lizzie. Austen gave me the impression that Darcy was a very loyal man, and after truly falling in love with someone, wouldn’t go to those kinds of means to get her out of his head. Even if he wanted to. *sigh*
Perhaps I am tainted by the wonderful image of Darcy Grange gave me. Though I am highly enjoying the more…probably realistic…Darcy in Darcys & Bingleys. It’ll take me some time to warm up the possibility that Darcy could not have been as angelic as Grange made him to be, or even sassier and wild as Atman has made him. In time I’m sure I’ll be finding myself reading your book, and enjoying your writing, too. Thanks for being so kind to us Austen purists who are learning to live a little and enjoy having an open mind. :)
It was such an enjoyable book. I bought it last Saturday and read it immediately. I especially like the details in the book. The way Darcy is irritated with Peebles and vice versa. After Darcy’s proposal, his writing changed too. Calling Elizabeth as E similar to the way he fondly refers to his sister as G. Also, there were some funny and romantic one liners. There was an entry in his diary that says “Too LOW to write today” after Elizabeth’s rejected his proposal. Hilarious!
Reading this well written book makes me want to read Pride and Prejudice again.
I’m a little peeved at the moment. I’ve always thought that it would be waste of time to try and re-create Mr. Darcy as he was written by Jane Austen. It’s like trying to re-create poetry that was written by someone else a century ago.
I’ve read all the reviews on Amanda Grange’s cover of Mr. Darcy’s Diary and they all seem very positive but I’m not sure if I can trust myself to go into it with an open mind. I will buy both books, Maya’s and Amanda’s, and I will try to remain open minded. But I’m not promising anything :)
You’re review was very insightful and it’s nice to have this opinion as a warning of sorts before I imerse myself into that world again. :)
Finally got around to this and read through it in one seating! =) I was that enthralled, so thanks LA for the recommendation.
I can understand the controversies that this re-telling has caused, but I never imagined Darcy to be a saint. But what did disturb me was Darcy’s continued friendship with Byron after witnessing the ‘violent’ incident perpetrated by Byron and Wickham when they were just 14. With Wickham, fate seemed to bind them together — Wickham was in his father’s favor and the whole unfortunate incident with Georgiana — but with Byron? Not only does Darcy’s judgement of people come into question, but more importantly, his moral compass and integrity. I just never considered this reprehensible aspect of his character. Maybe that’s why he is such good friends with Bingley? Darcy knows he is in need of someone with a stronger moral fiber to be his inner voice, which Bingley does become at the end.
One question though, Laurel Ann, regarding the Editor’s Note in the end: Is the discovery for real? Or still part of the woven fiction?
Joanna – glad you liked it. The Byron thing was disturbing and not quite right with our traditional view – but I still really enjoyed this book.
The story at the end about the discovery of the diary is part of the story and fictional. The author is so convincing in her description that I understand why you thought the story true. Nice complement to her.
Indeed, that ending is an ingenious touch by Slater! =)
I thought Darcy being friends with Byron is quite a creative turn, but then, one can’t be friends with Byron without delving into the darker psyche of
Thanks again, LA!