Wednesday, 9 February 2011


"The Two men stared off in different directions, making their awkward final good-byes to each other .
They were in appearance and comportment, as dissimilar as two men could be. 
Though both were exceedingly tall, Fitzwilliam Darcy the younger by nearly two years and a gentleman, was dark and handsome, elegantly dressed in the finest coat and neck cloth, breeches and boots. His air was one of a man of elegance and breeding, his demeanor of a man three times his age; heavy, solemn, serious, and levelheaded. He was also shy to the point of seemingly rude indifferenceW. The owner of one of the largest estates in England, inheridted by him aat the grand old age of twenty-one and then doubled, he had achieved his great success at the expense of his youth.
The elder of the two men, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, was bulkier, barrel-chested and slightly rougher looking, dressed in his unkempt colonel's uniform. An uninhibited joy of life exuded from him. He was like a large gangly puppy, a happy wild spirit trapped within a respectable soldier's body. What he lacked in physical beauty he more than made up for in character, the magnetic center of anywhere he went and of everyone he knew." (from The Prologue pp. 1-2)
What is absolutely new in Karen Wasylowski' s spin-off story based on Pride & Prejudice is its being a modern bromance set in the Regency period.  This modern term refers to a close but non-sexual relationship between two (or more) men . It is a story of special , close friends which,  in ancient times already, Aristotle described as “ those who desire the good of their friends for the friends' sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality”. This is exactly what happens between  Darcy and his cousin Fitzilliam .
Reading this novel gives a new point of view, which is entirely male, on the events. It is  like being admitted beyond that close door which separated the ladies from the gentlemen during Regency after-dinner private gatherings. It is like being allowed to share the men’s confidential chatting,  which Jane Austen usually neglected making us rather follow her heroines’ share of the events. In her novels we are banished from the men’s room and left  in the sitting room with all the ladies.
Being Darcy and Fitzwilliam the protagonists of this novel, we are,  instead,  allowed to make the acquaintance of the secret aspects, jokes and  quirks men usually don’t share with women. This is definitely the novelty in this amusing story based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
The  witty style chosen by Karen Wasylowski becomes even hilarious - if not farcical  - at times , which reminds me Georgette Heyer more than Austen. Many scenes might well be part of a Feydeau’s theatrical farce : Darcy and Elizabeth vivacious and continuous arguing in their married ménage or Caroline Bingley “ambushing” her dream man, Darcy, alone  in her brother’s house in order to seduce him, or the hilarious meeting of Fitzwilliam and Doctor Anthony Milagros.
The character of Lady Catherine is  outstanding, rather different from the original, that is ...  incredibly human and understanding - even with Elizabeth - and so patient that she accepts  being called “old girl” by Colonel Fitzwilliam, decorated hero in the Napoleonic war, but  free and easy even with her, his aristocratic stern aunt. Maybe she's becoming old indeed!
The novel is set into three parts; Volume 1 focuses on Darcy and the continuation of what began in Pride and Prejudice, Volume 2 focuses more on Fitzwilliam and where he is heading in life, and Volume 3 is the conclusion of the two and focuses on the family as a whole.
There are old and new characters and among the latter, two ones are rather peculiar or bizarre: Amanda ,  a charming widow coming from the new world with a very complicated family situation who succeeds in conquering Colonel Fitzwilliam's heart , and Doctor Anthony Milagros, her handsome close friend.
I had fun reading this book and I think it is a remarkable first attempt at fanfiction, being this a debut novel for Karen Wasylowski.  Many authors try to write like Jane Austen, in this case instead , the author managed to capture the essence of Pride and Prejudice but creating a work that has her own  voice.
 To be totally honest , as I ususally try to be,  I must admit that there are things in the book that may offend Austen purists. So if you are among them, I must warn you:   you'll find sex scenes between the protagonists and  a blunt, rather modern language, so  you can have the impression of  little attention given to the Regency etiquette or you might even find some twists in the plot improbable. However, I'm sure everybody can appreciate the enthusiasm and love with which Karen Wasylowski approaches  the task of writing Austen fanfiction.
Personally,  I  was amused most of the time and never offended. And if a weakest link in the novel  must be found,  let it be ... its length to me. I would  have cut it shorter, avoiding the third volume. The first one was definitely the best, there's greater control over every aspect of the narration.

Now I've got some urgent questions for Karen Wasylowski and she has kindly accepted to answer ... Till very soon then, to further discuss this new Austenesque read .
This was one of my tasks in the Jane Austen is My Homegirl Reading Challenge hosted at The Book Buff.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

This is a popular novel this week! I hav been seeing reviews for it pop up everywhere! And mine will probably go up to day after I do some tweaking.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one Maria! I too, found it to be quite hilarious! Although, I didn't like the first volume as much as you did.

Looking forward to the interview!!