Friday, January 23, 2009

Pride and Prejudice Revisionism

I see the Pride and Prejudice has become the favorite book of people who read the blog. And why not? It is very enjoyable and has been well done in movie adaptations and is probably the best known. So I would very much like to understand a new trend in Austen fan fiction, which is revisionism. What if P & P went like this? What if Darcy and Elizabeth met like this? What if this happened instead of this? My question: why mess with perfection? But I will look at some of these revisionists and let you know which are a good story and which to stay away from.

Abigail Reynolds has written the most revisionism of P & P. "Impulse and Initiative" "By Force of Instinct" "From Lambton to Longbourn" "The Last Man in the World" and "Without Reserve" are all by Reynolds and are all P & P revisionism. She has another book "Pemberley by the Sea" which is an update and quite enjoyable. Her revisionism on the other hand gets a little boring. I have read all five and the one thing they all have in common is Darcy and Elizabeth end up happily married at the end even though in each one they anticipate their wedding vows (i.e. They have sex before the wedding). After all the Darcy thinks of Wickham I cannot really see him anticipating his vows especially to Elizabeth. Although we are dealing with different circumstances and people who are not our beloved lead characters. Still I like to think I know Darcy and Elizabeth. In one book, Elizabeth almost commits suicide and Darcy admits that he almost did as well. I may not know everything there is to know about Regency England, but I know if Darcy had killed himself Pemberley would have been forfeited to the King as well as the Darcy monies. While suicide is unfortunately common today and did occur, thoughts and feelings on the matter were quite different. I think it sad that Elizabeth should become such a mouse and that the true effect of what would have happened to Georgiana and Pemberley would not be taken into account. Of course this is what happens when modern day people try to write about the past. I know there are some authors who are quite skilled and really research their books and create some truly wonderful pieces of fiction about a time period that I quite enjoy. But I do ask that you do the research and not add modern day sensibilities to something that was not so. So I say read the update with joy and pleasure as for the other five...don't read them back to back. Take some time between them otherwise parts will get stale. You may choose to not even read them at all.

For Christmas I received "Chance Encounters" by Linda Wells. It is revisionism and Darcy and Elizabeth meet in London prior to Darcy knowing anything about the Bennets. He falls for her because she showed him a kindness when most people were after his name and his money. Darcy and Elizabeth do marry although it is not a smooth path and the book follows their married life. It focuses on their early married life, but gives you a glimpse of their later married life. I enjoyed this novel. I felt the characters acted as they should and while it is not as good as the original, it is a good story and I believe you do not lose sight of who Darcy and Elizabeth truly are. There is perhaps a storyline involving Wickham that might be contrived and could be seen as a little silly, but overall the book has merit. The only thing that surprised me the most is how heavy the book is and I don't mean in theme I mean in actual weight. I do believe if you are reading it and you find yourself set upon by someone who claims Bronte is better you could sufficiently defend yourself with the book if need be.

"Pemberley's Promise" by Kara Louise has Darcy and Elizabeth meeting on a ship bound for America. There is also a secret marriage with the end result of an annulment (although it does not happen). Obviously this goes back to our previous post about modern sensibilities. It was very hard to get an annulment and Darcy should not have believed it so easy. Yet there is something about this book that I did really like. I enjoy the battles that Lizzy and Darcy face in the original and the love they find in the end, but for some reason I also like Lizzy and Darcy liking each other from the get go. At least in this version and in "Chance Encounters". Louise has written some other P & P books as well. An update in which Bingley and Jane die quite quickly which brings Darcy and Elizabeth together and a few that deal with the time after P & P. One has a quite strange section where Darcy is determined to start a school for the deaf. While this is very noble I am at a loss as to why Darcy would do this especially since he is newly married. I have read novels where women create schools and some men as well, but I just find this a strange Darcy trait.

I will admit that if you are a die-hard P & P fan you might not want to go out on a limb and read the revisionism. Your favorite book is taken from a completely different perspective and you may be dismayed with the results. I, on the other hand, have read quite a bit of crap and can set aside my love for the original to see what other people think should have happened. I do not know if I will pursue a doctorate in this one day and explore the changes or if I do this because I love Austen, but more than I love Austen (yes, I am wholly admitting to loving myself :) I love how she brings people together. I love how friendships are forged through a love of a similar novel or love of a movie adaptation. (Yes, Kristin, I mean you). I love how people want to make these characters their own. It is as if we all own a bit of Lizzy and a bit of Darcy. How many of us see ourselves as Lizzyesque? Smart, witty, not the typical woman and hope we will win or already have won a Darcy of our own? A man who should be superior to us in station, but loves us for our minds.

I will admit that I will talk about some of the crap I have read in another post. I do ask you to be prepared for a seven-foot detective, an exorcism and a trip to Georgia during the War of 1812. Oh yes and mirrors above the beds; because we all knew Colonel Fitzwilliam had a devious side. But that is for another post. As for today enjoy if you feel you can give it a chance.

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