Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues – Linda Berdoll (2004)
Awhile ago I was talking to a friend about a magazine that never prints negative reviews, she responded by telling me that she couldn’t remember a negative review which I had written either.
There are two reasons for this:
Life is too short to read bad books. There are so many amazing things to read, that if I’m really not enjoying a book I’m likely not going to read it, and if I’m not reading it cover to cover, then I am certainly not reviewing it. I did however make an exception for the following.
Usually I still somehow manage to couch scathing reviews in something positive.
Case in point:
As Linda Berdoll rides the wave of success in releasing the sequel to her sequel, it may be prudent to step back and consider whether her first novel, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, was worth the time in the first place.
Though it is clear that a lot of time was spent researching this novel, it begs the question of whether that was accomplished while watching the Pride and Prejudicemini series on A&E with a bag of popcorn; all the while taking for granted that her readers’ familiarity of Austen extends no further then Keira Knightly’s new (and appalling) manifestation of Elizabeth Bennet.
In her preface, Berdoll frames her novel by insulting Austen’s inexperience and using that inexperience to find a niche where she can fit her fan novel. While also causing this reader to question the need that Berdoll has in referring to Austen and Brontë with the prefix “Miss,” much as one may sensibly refer to Mr. Keats, Mr. Milton or Mr. Shakespeare.
Beginning the morning after the wedding then backtracking to encompass the two months of their engagement, the book covers the trials and tribulations of the Darcy newlyweds.
With an illegitimate child of uncertain provenance, murder, adultery and a flight to the continent during the Napoleonic war in pursuit of yet another wayward sister; Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, at times, reads more like a period Harlequin than a continuation of Austen. This is emphasised in particular by such lines as:
Because she had felt of his body in full cry, and therefore appreciated the ampleness of his… credentials.
According to Berdoll, her reason for continuing Austen’s work is due to Austen’s inability to further her own work: “As befitting a maiden’s sensibilities, her novels all end with the wedding ceremony.” Are we to understand this to mean that virgins cannot write a good love scene? For someone who seems as obsessed with Austen’s “virgo intactus” and her inability to write a steamy enough sex scene Berdoll resorts to Latinizing any time things get steamy during her own novel.
It was discovered then, that a man of sufficiently warm blood could, even under the disadvantaged impairment of four previous accommodations, re-achieve a penis in erectus of considerable magnitude.
After the second in flagrante delicto and the third virgo intactus I began to wonder whether Berdoll is resorting to Latin to impress or to hide, perhaps ‘caught in the act’ and ‘virgin’ are words that offend Berdoll’s post-Victorian female sensibilities.
Similarly by resorting to stock phrasing such as “howbeit,” “much ado,” “nary” and “betwixt,” Berdoll may feel her homage is complete.
Interestingly, however, the point of view shifts to encompass the numerable cast of characters. While this idea is fascinating, it can also be confusing, as it often takes a few lines before the reader is clear about whose head they are in.
This shifting point of view is not simply reserved for main characters; it is also used with secondary and even tertiary characters – which in some cases can feel rather like being hit over the head with foreshadowing.
However interesting the character development may be – and it is detailed and impressively developed – that does not make up for missing almost all Austen’s witty and sharp dialogue, the occasional witty lines are not a salvation.
The loss of the narrator is also a crippling blow.
Though an appealing concept, perhaps it might have been more appropriately executed in a modern-day setting, as continuous lewd scenarios written under the banner of Austen’s prestige seems forced and unnatural.
An enjoyable enough read if you don’t mind blushing as you turn every page; Austen, however, would be turning in her grave, Miss Berdoll.
You Might Also Like:
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Sourcebooks Landmark (May 1, 2004) 476 pages ISBN: 9781402202735
Suggested Reading Level: no one! please.