Friday, February 11, 2011
In this inventive and puntastical re-imagining of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the handsome Mr. Darcy and his cohorts are quite unexpectedly introduced to Elizabeth Bennett and her companions after the group of ladies witnesses the gentlemen frolicking in a weed-choked pond at Pemberly. The young women and men immediately become smitten with each other, and throughout the days and weeks that follow, their attachment and regard for each other only grows. For Elizabeth and Darcy, the initial attraction is soon replaced by affection and furious desire, and when another suitor threatens to interfere with Darcy's plans to ask for Elizabeth's hand, great lengths must be gone to in order for the two to be reunited. For Jane Bennett, the meeting at the pond turns into a love triangle between herself and Messrs. Fitzwilliam and Bingley, and for Georgiana Darcy the event culminates in a formidable attachment with the eligible Ellis Fleming. There are trips to the country and journeys to the city, parties where misunderstandings abound, and decadent and scandalous waltzes. Through it all the Darcy and Bennett girls and their suitors astound and aggravate their current and prospective families with abundant wordplay and pernicious puns. When the three women finally succeed in snaring the eligible and handsome bachelors, the story concludes with an extraordinary and unusual wedding that will leave romance lovers with warm and moving feelings for the happy couples. In this, Croft's debut, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy and friends are re-imagined and reinvigorated with playfulness, tenderness and aplomb that will leave readers enticed and hungering for more.
There seem to be hundreds of Austen re-imaginings, sequels and prequels out in the book world nowadays, and though I've been interested in a few of them, this was really my first experience actually reading one. I think these types of books can be tricky, not only because Austen is such a beloved and accomplished author, but because often these types of books can devolve into a form of fan fiction that's not widely appreciated by purists. While this first attempt at reading Austen-inspired fiction was rather successful for me, there were a few points that niggled me in my final thoughts and reactions to the book.
Though Austen's work in her original form can be sobering and serious, this was more playful and happy than any of the Austen I've read. Of course there were misunderstandings and conundrums, but the feeling of tension that usually accompanies these types of things was curiously missing. I think the light-heartedness of the writing ensured that no stone would be left unturned in relation to the match-ups in this book, and though I did feel there was some internal conflict within the pages, there seemed to be a lack of serious drama when it came to the bare bones of the story. At its heart, this was a playful book, and one that didn't seek to question the whys and wherefors of the relationships within it. Rather it was a book that felt light and unencumbered and the main feeling I got from it was one of high-spiritedness and amusement.
At first the heavy use of puns and wordplay was amusing, but after it wore on for awhile, my eyes began to glaze over. Every type of wordplay you can imagine was used here, from alliteration to simile to riddles, and of course, puns. While I did think it was increasingly creative that Croft was able to keep up the stamina with this throughout the book, I felt that it did start to overburden the story she was trying to tell. Fun for a time, yes, but also repetitive and taxing after awhile. I began to look ahead in my reading, searching for the wordplay, and that took away from my enjoyment of the story. It was so heavily done that I found multiple examples on every page. This may not be a problem for other readers, but in my case, I've never been particularly appreciative of excessive wordplay, and while I admit it was exceedingly clever, it also detracted from what the story was trying to do.
What I really liked was the way the author aligned all the couples in their quest to find their perfect partner. I don't need a whole lot of drama and pathos when it comes to the relationships in the books I'm reading, and for some reason, there was a feeling of comfort and ease in the permutations of couples and their adventures. I also liked that each section of the book payed homage to specific books in Austen's canon, and felt that it was rather clever and well-managed that cameo appearances and storylines were grafted in pieces and parts from their original sources. I also liked the romance angle of this book, and while it seemed that it was a modern construct, it also felt like it had an appropriate Regency feeling to it. I was a little bemused that Darcy was portrayed as such a romantically passionate character, for in the original Pride and Prejudice, he was a lot more restrained and circumspect with his emotions. Elizabeth Bennett was true to form though, full of spunk and charisma, and it was certainly easy to see why Darcy held her in such high regard.
This was a book filled with mirth and joy, and while it did wrap up every last loose end imaginable, it was a very easy book to get caught up in. I would have to say the biggest detractor for me was the excessive and overabundant wordplay, but other readers would possibly be more appreciative of that aspect than I was. One thing I learned is that I quite like Austen spin-offs, which is very good for me because I happen to own a lot of them! If you're looking for a romp of a read that features some of Austen's most beloved characters, you need look no further. A more cozy and playful read would be hard to come by.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
Posted by Zibilee at 8:00 AM