Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review - Jane Austen Sequels

I had a lot of good intentions to write on my blog more, but so far they've fallen by the wayside.  Which confession makes me feel especially like Emma Woodhouse right now.  Rather apropos since this post is about Jane Austen!  I've recently read some "sequels", or perhaps more accurately stated as Jane-Austen-from-a-different-angle books.  I quite enjoyed both of them - they were fun, light, quick reads.  As I only borrowed them from the library, I think I will have to watch out for them in the bookstore sometime so I can have them to re-read them at will later.  Anyway, without further ado - here are the reivews:

Mr. Darcy's Diary  by Amanda Grange
Amazon link

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I've seen a lot of both really positive and really negative reviews. As to whether someone will like it or not, I think it really boils down to your expectation. We all have our own opinions, ideas, and expectations for exactly who each character is, how they should act or not act, and what is an acceptable outcome for them. If the books lines up fairly well with your personal opinion of the characters, it will likely be enjoyable. But that's such an individual qualification that it's impossible to make a blanket statement on whether or not someone else will really enjoy it like you do.

I personally really enjoyed this book. I loved getting some more insight into other characters and "watching" Pride and Prejudice from a different angle. For the most part, I thought the characters stayed true to my idea of who they are. The writing is definitely not Jane Austen, but then, it's not supposed to be. 

I enjoyed "getting to know" Mr. Darcy better. It was fascinating to see his character grow through the book and to see the life and energy that Elizabeth gave to his life. He stayed true to who I think he is - a gentleman raised and confined in a certain level of society that led to his pride, yet with a caring and tender nature for those close to him, someone who seems aloof but realizes the great need for laughter and fun to lighten one's life a little. I felt like he changed his opinions a little too suddenly to fit his character (he had several "lightbulb" moments) but it wasn't major enough to hurt my enjoyment. I felt that he mentioned Elizabeth a little too much perhaps in relation to his other activities, but then again, he is a man infatuated/in love. My least favorite part in the movie was his first proposal to Elizabeth. It goes into much more detail than either the book or the movies and frankly, I thought it was horrible. I know it's meant to be arrogant and proud, but I thought it was overdone here.

Charles and Caroline Bingley fit my ideas of them almost exactly, with Caroline being a little more bitter and acidic than is evident in P&P. Lady Catherine was all pomp and arrogance. Georgiana was a little more shy and timid than I imagine her to be, and the scene at the beginning was rather awkward and almost laughable to me. But her character really blossomed at the end. Wickham is just as base as ever, though I was a little surprised by how base and moral-less Lydia was shown to be. I had always seen her as more vain and naive. I was delighted to see more of Colonel Fitzwilliam as I dearly loved him in P&P and was always wanting to know more about him. I was most surprised by Anne de Bourgh - her character turned out quite different than I ever imagined or is ever shown in the movies, but in the end I enjoyed seeing her in a different light. Overall, I loved the book and seeing a beloved story from a different angle.




Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
Amazon link

I think it's worth repeating that what your personal opinions and ideas are about these beloved characters - who they are and how they should act - will tell whether or not you enjoy the book. 

I had more misgivings about this book than the one on Mr. Darcy. Emma happens to be my favorite Jane Austen novel and I feel few people have done it true justice. So I was rather anxious to see what the author would do with this book. Overall, I enjoyed it. It was a nice, light, quick read. I will say that because of the very limited perspective of this book as opposed to Austen, since this is only from the vantage point of Mr. Knightley, it is a rather slow and dull read until about a third into it when the crisis with Mr. Elton comes to a head. 

In my mind, there wasn't enough new information or a new side of Mr. Knightley to be found as there was with Mr. Darcy. I don't feel that I learned anything new about him or his character. I feel though that Mr. Knightley's character was perhaps more developed and propounded on than other leads of Austen's, so there wasn't as much new insight to offer. I was a little troubled by Mr. Knightley's desire and looking around for a wife. That seemed rather out of character to me. I also thought his dislike of Frank Churchill didn't start soon enough compared to Austen's description. But otherwise, I thought he remained fairly well in the character that I think of him. I particularly enjoyed his dawning realization of his love for Emma and his blindness of Harriet's "attachment" to him. It was charming to watch him fall in love, or rather, awaken to see his love for Emma. 

All the other characters I felt were represented very close to character. I was surprised to find several new characters introduced in the story who played some minor, but not insignificant roles. I can't quite decide if I like it or not, but as it caused a happy ending for another character in the story I don't think I'll begrudge the addition. One always likes happy endings.