Waiting for Mr. Darcy by Chamein Canton

This is the tale of three friends, the Austen aristocrats, who bonded in school over their plus-sized figures and their love of Jane Austen and who, in their late 40s, have found or tried to find love like that between Darcy and Elizabeth in their own lives. One found her Darcy—and lost him to cancer. The other two have yet to experience anything approaching the real deal.  Alicia has MS and a cooking show that makes her want to keep her illness a secret. Lauren is a producer and the separated wife of a philandering football star. Gabby is a hip art gallery owner. Alicia and Lauren are African-American, which matters only in that this book reminds us that Austen speaks to all of us, regardless of race or religion, and regardless of whether, in our race or religion, we could have lived anything resembling the lives of an Austen heroine in Austen’s own time. It is a thought that has occurred to me many times, and I found this twist strangely comforting for that reason.

The dedication is so hopeful and yet simultaneously annoying as it suggests that a reader hasn’t yet met her own Mr. Darcy because her eyes are closed to what is standing before her.  That seeming paradox recurs throughout the text. The tale is gripping and feels like such a “regular” novel that this reader did a double-take when a character quoted Emma in a conversation about her own celibacy. But then, Lauren misunderstands the famous opening line of P and P and tries to modify it as: “a woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want and need of a husband, too.” Groan.  How can an Austen expert not know that Austen’s use of “want” in that line MEANS “need”? Alicia, too, stains her Austen credentials when she describes her affection for “that sexy pre-Victorian/Victorian way of romance.” Victorian?! The text has some very funny lines (e.g. SPF is “essentially long sleeves in a tube”), but is a little too obvious in some of its maneuvering (a character crosses her legs in a car, the car swerves because the driver glances at the legs, and she immediately realizes to herself “I guess my legs look better than I thought”). I cared about the characters, each of whom is experiencing some sort of life trouble and new romance, but the dark moments are brief and not frightening enough. There are no real delays in mutual understanding (nothing approaching the real Elizabeth/Darcy  dark period), and all the problems get resolved neatly and quickly.

But I liked it anyway ;-).

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Published in: on October 10, 2009 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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