The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini

If you’re trying to relax before going to bed, this is not the book to read. If however, you’re looking to stay awake for a while, consider reading it aloud with a partner. There are several X-rated scenes here, but they are handled tastefully, and with proper anticipation—on yours, and the characters’, parts.

The story begins with Darcy (a descendant of our beloved hero) advising Bingley about the purchase of a new Lamborghini (Netherfield). Darcy tempers Bingley’s enthusiasm with a warning to slow down his actions with thought, just as our Darcy did, but this Darcy uses the F word as he does it.

In this modern version of our tale, Darcy is a judge (fitting, I thought, since that is, after all, what he does throughout the text), and Elizabeth is a confident lawyer in his court. When he first meets her, he assumes she’s on trial for speeding, only to have his first impression put quickly to rest as she defends a Mr. Collins, on trial for solicitation of prostitutes. (Darcy mentally gives him herpes to punish him).

This is a “thoroughly modern” version of our story, according to the back cover, and while, at first, the use of profanity and sometimes obscene situations may be off-putting to readers of this publication, I’d venture to recommend reading it anyway. This story is fun and light, and many of Angelini’s changes work well, if you can stomach an occasional Harry Potter reference (too lowbrow for some of you, but perfectly acceptable for others), many sexual puns and intimate scenes, and Mr. Hurst’s metamorphosis into a gay hottie who resembles Rupert Everett. 

Bingley is a doctor (you might wonder, is he smart enough for that, until you recall some of the doctors you have met), and Jane a resident in his circles; Darcy has meaningless sex with Caroline until he decides not to anymore; the Netherfield Ball is a Halloween party; the first proposal Darcy makes to Elizabeth is of writing a joint law review article; and karaoke is as you’ve never seen it.

This is a sexed-up version of our beloved tale, and if you’re one who has always read much of the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth as being sexual in nature, you will probably be more comfortable with the openness of that tension than those of you who prefer chemistry to be understated. The latter group does not likely imagine Georgiana warning her big brother not to “dip [his] stick in” a woman she dislikes, but regardless of your reaction to such lines, the sex is intense here because the connection on all levels is intense here. Darcy and Elizabeth belong together, and one barometer of that fit is their sexual chemistry.

There are others. Each is a professional who works to develop a plan for any situation that requires attention. Each is smart and successful and wants, long-term, to find love that transcends the “relationships” of the past. Both exercise to absorb desire (Elizabeth runs; Darcy rides). Both agree to keep the affair short—and then almost simultaneously realize that they have fallen in love with the other.

The relationship—or rather—the break-up of it—feels very real. It is mutual, but it makes them both miserable. She was so tough, and becomes so broken, even as she tries desperately to resurrect her world. She wears his shirt just to smell him, even when it starts smelling like her.

Before you know it, you’ve been reading for an hour, when your plan was a few minutes before drifting to sleep. And I haven’t even started on all the links to the original novel. I thought I spotted Wickham right away, only to discover that the guy flirting with Elizabeth had to be the Colonel Fitzwilliam character. I thought the proposal of the brief was the real thing; it isn’t. Then I thought the suggestion to get back together was the real thing; it isn’t either. Two decoys! Darcy reaches out to Elizabeth’s boss—Mr. Gardiner—when he needs help with Elizabeth. Then it turns out there is a Wickham, but he appears much less often (and in an even worse context) than I had imagined. Georgiana is not the subject of Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth—she’s the one who suggests he write it. These are smart twists that kept me constantly revising my assumptions, as, one might argue, Elizabeth and Darcy must do, both in the original novel and in this one.

Lines from P&P are sprinkled throughout the text, in contexts that make sense. One of my favorite changes occurs when Elizabeth (who thinks Caroline and Darcy are dating when they aren’t) comes home to Jane snuggling with Charley, and groans inwardly that the house is “overrun by Bingleys.” Even Lady Catherine’s infamous shelves in the closet are included in this veritable treasure hunt for details from Austen’s novel.

This is indeed a story of the trials of a man, and the pun works well. It is also a deeply emotional, romantic, sensual, and literary exploration of a companionate relationship in our complicated world. And I’ll never look at pears in the same way again.

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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