Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jane Austen, Pastiche Leeches, and Zombies

After finishing my previous post, I was thinking about the many Jane Austen adaptations, sequels, completions, and pastiches there are in the world--there is a whole sungenre of Jane Austen fan fiction widely available on-line as well. I've read several published Austen sequels and spin-offs, some good, some bad, but they are all universally appealing upon first sight, if only because they offer the opportunity to explore a new story line written in the style of a most beloved author.

I've written in the past about Sanditon (which seems to improve over time, becoming better and better in memory) and The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (which seems to get worse over time. I originally gave it a rating C+, but I most certainly wouldn't give it that anymore. Memories of the bad parts seem to outweigh memories of the good parts when eight months have passed). Both of these are examples of fairly creative explorations of the Jane Austen world, but I've read several others as well:

Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife, by Linda Berdoll

Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife is a sequel of Pride and Prejudice that traces Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's life after the wedding. Both this book and its sequel (Days and Nights at Pemberley) are very well-written, with the Victorian voice staying to true to Jane Austen's for the most part. The story lines are also extremely satisfying as far as plot goes (which seems to be rare). Plot twists abound, most notably the revelation that --SPOILER ALERT-- Mr. Wickham is actually Mr. Darcy's illegitimate half-brother. Gasp!

What many reviews won't tell you is that a large part of this book is essentially erotica, and while it isn't written badly, it is an almost never-ending fuckfest, complete with as many Victorian euphimisms for penis as possible. To give Berdoll the credit due her, she wrote this book with exactly this goal in mind, so it should be counted as nothing if not a success. That is, it is written with the intention of finally satisfying all the long-repressed Mr. Darcy fantasies that are apparently wide-ranging and raunchy. You've been warned, but even if you don't appreciate the borderline-pornographic scenes, the book is very good.

Overall, I would give the book a B, which is good--the only Austenian writer good enough to get an A is Jane Austen herself.

Mr. Darcy's Diary, by Amanda Grange

If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say: boring. If I had to describe it in two words, I would say: extremely boring. I could have written this book when I was in seventh grade as Grange apparently just took the dialogue from the original story, re-wrote it from Darcy's point of view, and added several extra scenes to explain the shotgun wedding between Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham. It is written in first-person (as it is ostensibly a journal), but the first third of the book focuses exclusively on Mr. Bingley's relationship with Jane. Why the hell would Darcy care that much about Mr. Bingley, to the point that he's keeping a diary to record the events of the other man's courtship?

In addition, the characters of both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are left completely flat and undeveloped, while the author fleshes out Mr. Bingley almost to the point of ridiculousness. In it, Bingley is painted as a reknowned flirt who is leading the kind Jane on and Darcy simply must do something to save her from Bingley's advances, little realizing that Bingley actually loves her. The whole thing reeked of rewriting history, as I always thought Mr. Darcy made it exceedingly clear in P&P that he was attempting to protect his friend, not his friend's beloved.

I would give this book a solid D and recommend that you never read it.

And finally, one that I haven't read as it is coming April 15, 2009, to a bookstore near you: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans."

It promises to be nothing if not entertaining!


Anonymous said...

That third one sounds most promising. It might even be bearable.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I thought you'd like that.

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