Mr. Darcy’s Decision by Juliette Shapiro

Mr. Darcy’s Decision by Juliette Shapiro

After a quick review of the events of Pride and Prejudice, Shapiro’s narrator tells us that we should not assume that these “perfect ingredients make for pictures of perfection” (5). While it seems, perhaps, unkind, to say that such a text is as true for this work as it is for the story for Shapiro intends it, I would be remiss as an honest reviewer not to make any mention of the numerous grammatical errors that affected my enjoyment of an otherwise clever and well-told tale. My hope is that I somehow stumbled upon a work in progress, prior to its final edits. Though I see no such evidence in the manuscript itself, I do not recall purchasing this work (I found it, to my delight, on the shelf of works awaiting my perusal), so it is possible I received an early copy, in which multiple comma splices (run-on sentences in which commas mistakenly take the places of periods) assault the senses and hinder meaning.

Note taken, we must move on to the delights of the story—and of them, there are far more than there is anything about which to be upset. I was surprised by how much attention Shapiro gives Mary Bennet. Most sequels leave her at Longbourne, tending the nuttiness of Mrs. Bennet and amusing her father with weak stabs at intellectualism. Kitty is usually the one to break free. Shapiro does several unusual things with Mary, all while maintaining her (annoying and) distinctive Mary flavor. Mrs. Phillips’ relations with her sister are a bit sharper than I recall from P&P, and she actually calls Mrs. Bennet on her BS (and calls her Fanny, which she never does in Austen).

At some moments, Shapiro perhaps gets too excited by the prospect of infusing her own Austen knowledge into her characters. I dare say it might be a misuse of the gift to have Elizabeth Darcy call herself “partial, prejudiced, and ignorant,” akin, perhaps to the Rozema film version of Mansfield Park in which our heroine seems a bit more Austen than Fanny Price (and though I enjoyed that film, I found myself instinctively rolling my eyes when Elizabeth here wonders what her own history of England would look like).

Back to commendations now: Shapiro develops the bonds between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner, Kitty and Georgiana, and Mary and Anne, in a way that is satisfying to any lover of the originals, and a simply shocking revelation by Wickham casts Lady Catherine in a far more negative light that anything in which she was bathed in Austen’s story. But what Darcy’s decision is—or even on what subject!—is a mystery until near the end of Shapiro’s story. It is clear earlier that something is going on, to which we—and Elizabeth—are not privy. The decision, too, resolves satisfactorily to people who want Lizzy and Darcy to triumph.

Shapiro does many things here that I have not seen done before—notably with Mary, with Maria Lucas, and with Wickham. These bold choices work (as does a clever almost hidden allusion to Jane Eyre) because of Shapiro’s set up. She even manages a nice reference to Austen at the end, but the final chapter awkwardly includes the deaths of E and D, which left me deeply sad and a bit creeped out. No one has ever killed them off, I think (except maybe in the Choose Your Own Adventure version, if you make an error in judgment), and that, of all Shapiro’s bold choices, is the only one that didn’t quite work for me. It’s otherwise an engaging, quick-paced read that I can recommend.

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Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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