Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise

This one grabs you from the very beginning with an intriguing prologue in which Darcy meets Elizabeth on a carriage ride—he makes a bad first impression, and she’s unnecessarily difficult. Nonetheless, they both enjoy their conversation and are loathe to part–but don’t know each others’ names.

The story picks up two years later when Elizabeth decides to travel to America to stay with the Gardiners; by coincidence, Darcy is on the same ship—which he owns—to meet Georgiana (who has traveled there with Mrs. Annesley, who then gets too ill to accompany the young lady back home). Though there are a few weak spots (why would a “rational argument” persuade Mrs. Bennet to let Elizabeth go? [12] and why would Mrs. Annesley try to persuade Darcy to let Georgiana accompany her to America in the first place? [23]—though, to be fair, the second argument—get her away from Wickham and humiliation—sounds more probable), ultimately the joy of the adventure works to distract us from any small inconsistencies of plot.

On the ship, we begin to enjoy the same Austen lines and characters we know and love, but in very different contexts, several of which are really quite clever. The captain, for instance, says Bingley’s line about Darcy being fastidious, and the new context for Darcy’s barb about no women handsome enough to tempt him is that he’s reassuring the captain there will be no impropriety initiated by him with the unescorted ladies (31). When the narrator describes Elizabeth as being torn between fearing and desiring Darcy’s return to the room, it is after their first kiss (187). In the ship part of the story, we have makeshift Bingley (captain) and Miss Bingley (Eleanor Brewster), so I was actually a little surprised when the real ones showed up later. Similarly, since Elizabeth gets sick in this version, and Darcy nurses her back to health, we don’t necessarily expect Jane to get sick later, but she does. The “first proposal” is so different in nature, but the basic facts are the same—he assumes it is more than she could hope for, and she takes offense at first, but the result is, as Elizabeth would say, “quite the opposite” 😉 (86-87). Overall, the effect is that we are not surprised by our destination but often surprised and delighted by how Louise gets us there.

That said, Louise does use some distinctly non-Austen strategies as she flips our expectations on their pretty little heads. Darcy’s valet teases him from the very beginning; if that were true, Elizabeth’s later behavior wouldn’t be so shocking (and Austen wouldn’t have had her hold her tongue because he had not yet learned to laugh at himself and it was rather too early to begin) (25-26). There are several interesting and potentially off-putting discussions of Elizabeth praying . .  . Austen never does that, though we might assume that for Austen, as the daughter and sister of clergymen, prayer was a regular part of her life (52). Elizabeth calls her aunt “Aunt Madlyn” not “Aunt Gardiner” (206). When Caroline suggests Jane only wants Bingley’s money, Darcy is all reason (“I have not had the opportunity to see them together enough to make that sort of judgment,” he says 273). Since Elizabeth hasn’t yet arrived home, it’s Darcy who sees through the Bingley sisters’ “care” for Jane (275). When Wickham finally appears, the ramifications are different from what we expect. And the Pemberley scene is so much fun to read—again, the basic outline is the same, but it’s so different! (Yay, Georgiana!)
This is a love story, of course, but it appeals to other passions as well; ultimately, books bring our hero and heroine together—first on the carriage where they first meet, then during their daily walks on deck, then in Netherfield Library. Darcy’s Voyage—and Elizabeth’s, too—is very clever, and a joy to watch progress.

If nothing else, after reading Louise’s descriptions of steerage, you will never again take for granted the gift of fresh air!

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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