Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World

Sometimes the books you least expect to read are the most satisfying. I worked off my desire to read Jane Austen spin-offs this summer, and in any case Pride and Prejudice was not my main interest. I had a lot of reading to do for class, and I was in the middle of a Dorothy Sayers novel. But I was at home for the weekend, and my mother went to the library, and she brought it home, and it sounded like a nice change from the history of science or linguistics, and so here we are.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, by Abigail Reynolds, is one of a series of Pride and Prejudice variations. Known usefully to the fanfiction world as AU, or alternate universe, these books choose a turning point in the story, a "What if?" scenario, and imagine how the book would run if one or two small things had happened differently. I have always loved contemplating What Ifs, and the most interesting ones are the smallest changes, which spread throughout the story and change everything.

This book's turning point is Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth. What if she had been forced by questions of reputation and propriety to marry him? I was very pleasantly surprised by how well this premise was executed. It was well-written, chose excellent moments to throw in hints of the original book, and explored how the change in circumstance would affect the characters in interesting ways. Though the alternate path of the story changed Elizabeth and Darcy very much, I never felt like they had ceased to be Elizabeth and Darcy. The book also added some new pieces of information about the characters, which was seamlessly worked in to what we already know.

This was an interesting "What if?", a satisfying Jane Austen spin-off and an interesting story of a marriage, and it successfully managed not to be absurd, overly angsty, or self-indulgent. I read it all in a day. I think this can safely be proclaimed a winner.

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