Guest review by Christina B.
Many modern versions of Jane Austen’s works fail to hit the mark because the author forces a “rewrite” of the original, altogether forgetting that some scenarios and mores from the Regency era make no sense in the modern-day world. Or worse yet, the author fails to deliver any character development – depending almost wholly on the expectation that the reader will be familiar with Miss Austen’s originals. Fortunately, author Sara Angelini’s The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is invigorating, yet somewhat comforting, as we meet our old friends in an entirely new setting. Like Bridget Jones’ Diary, the popular 1996 novel by Helen Fielding, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy has flavorings of the original Pride and Prejudice: aloof, handsome, and rather stuffy Fitzwilliam Darcy from an ancient line of British aristocracy meets and goes toe to toe with fresh-faced, independent and spunky Elizabeth Bennet. And yes, there is still the great estate of Pemberley in England and a cast of familiar names. But beyond that, this story is refreshingly new and stands quite on its own.
As the title eludes, our Fitzwilliam Darcy is a judge and Elizabeth Bennet is the clever attorney who frequently appears before him in court. Following the usual P&P adaptation formula, an unintentional off-handed comment by Judge Darcy is overheard by Elizabeth that only adds to the manifest of other qualities she already detests about him. Do not expect all of the characters from the original novel in this modern re-imagining, nor are they used in the same capacity as in Austen’s work. Exhibit one: you will not find Darcy’s arch-nemesis Mr. Wickham running off with his younger sister Georgiana. Exhibits two and three: there are none of Lady Catherine’s high-handed antics or even an unwelcome marriage proposal by Mr. Collins. However, there are fleeting “walk-on” roles by some of the aforementioned characters but none are a driving force to the plot. I particularly enjoyed how Angelini has also cleverly enhanced Caroline Bingley’s role as competition to Elizabeth and confidant to Darcy. My eyebrows did wrinkle concerning some of the refurbished characterizations of Elizabeth’s best friend Louis Hurst, because in all honestly, I did not believe Jane Austen’s Louisa Hurst was ever intended to be a gay male. But I soon got over myself and found this quirky reinterpretation to be a favorite; a most-endearing character. I especially love how Angelini has given many of Austen’s famous lines to Lou, even channeling our beloved Mrs. & Mr. Bennet.
A real-life attorney, Angelini has a very realistic grasp on the legalese. In addition, her understanding and interpretations of dynamic relationships and dialogue are descriptive and believable – although the f-bomb is frequently dropped. I often found myself laughing out loud and shaking my head at the plucky dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth as well as some amusing antics. Be forewarned, however, the extremely graphic and passionate love scenes will leave you breathless. So delicious, they will leave you craving for more!
I confess I have been a fan of this particular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice since Angelini first self-published it in 2007. When I heard that Sourcebooks had picked it up, I was somewhat apprehensive regarding what possible cuts and changes might entail. But my fears were for naught as the edits and stronger back-story only proved to make it a more cohesive and realistic tale. Thankfully, none of my original favorite scenes were deleted and some new scenes were added as well. Nice!
Although this novel was inspired by Jane Austen’s original and Angelini’s own admission of “Colin Firth’s smoldering haughtiness,” one need not have read Pride and Prejudice (or seen the BBC mini-series for that matter) to enjoy it. But if you are already a fan, then this telling will be an excessively diverting entertainment you won’t want to miss. In conclusion, my factual assertion as witness merits, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is 5 stars.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, by Sara Angelini
Sourcebooks Landmark (2009)
Trade paperback (338) pages