Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan

Two overall facts:

1. This text has a fatal flaw.

2. I enjoyed it anyway.

Let’s address the fatal flaw first: this text is not really a sequel to Jane Austen’s novel; instead, it imagines what might happen next to Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFayden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy in Joe Wright’s film. To be fair, the writer tells us in her preface that it is the film that sparked her passion for these characters and, eventually inspired her to read the novel. That acknowledgment alone was not enough to cure me of irritation when interpretations based on the film instead of from the novel appeared.  Elizabeth, for instance, tells her husband that he has “bewitched [her] body and soul.” Lathan claims Elizabeth “spied” on Georgiana when she first visited Pemberley; that happens only in this film. I couldn’t help but wonder, does Lathan intend to continue the film? Does she think we won’t know both the novel and this adaptation well enough to know the difference? The marble statues, the mist during the second proposal, the emphasis on the first time their hands touched, the use of “Mrs. Darcy” when Darcy is incandescently happy, Darcy’s question “Are you laughing at me?” and comment, “indeed, most invigorating”—this is the movie! (Even the excerpt from the next book in the series has a movie line—“There is so much to entertain!”—but in the mouth of the wrong character.)

In addition to this grievous distraction, there are some other expressions that lead me to sense I’m not in hands I can trust, lines like “Lizzy had often lamented her, shall we say, less than curvy figure.” Elizabeth doesn’t think about Jane Bennet until page121, which seems unlike our Elizabeth, who would be thinking of her sister and wondering how she was faring, at least once in a while, despite the sexual distractions. And why does Lathan create a Mr. Cole (who gives a party) and a Reverend Bertram, who clearly are NOT the so-named characters in Emma and Mansfield Park? Is she toying with us? Unaware?

Given my obvious levels of irritation, one might ask why I finished the nearly 300 pages and then read the excerpt of the next one. I liked the story. Lathan provides fascinating glimpses at Darcy’s life as master of Pemberley, Elizabeth’s first visit to Pemberley through Mrs. Reynolds’ eyes, Elizabeth and Darcy’s first night as husband and wife, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s parents (the aunt and uncle of whom Darcy need not be ashamed, akin to the Gardiners for Lizzy) and siblings, and a LOT of fun scenes of love-making. I quickly understood the subtitle—two shall become one—because these two are becoming one several times in each chapter (on average), and we are most definitely to interpret their fulfilled passion in the bedroom (and nearly everywhere else) as emblematic of the depth of their emotional bonds. The love is touching, and, as devotees of Elizabeth Bennet (both Austen’s version and Wright’s), the reader is happy to see her live so “happily ever after.”

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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