Pride and Prejudice: A Royal Disposition by Amy Cecil

Okay. This one starts at the beginning of P and P, uses Austen’s words, and then adds some. Usually I hate these because the assumption is Austen’s text leaves something out. Here, Cecil actually presumes to alter several of Austen’s key lines. She even changes some Austen details, such as having Elizabeth immediately question everyone’s first impressions and immediately looking at Darcy “with great admiration” (38). He goes over to apologize! What? A shockingly different tale!

How little I was prepared for Cecil’s plan. Though not everything makes perfect sense (e.g. If Lizzy is “known” to be Mr. Bennet’s sister’s child, why is she raised as a daughter and not as a niece? 12-13), the background story is interesting, and we get it fairly early on, so only we and Mr. Bennet are “in the know.” We enjoy the heavy dramatic irony, then, knowing where the story is headed.

I noticed right away that the book has sort of a weird lay-out and no named publisher, so I’m assuming this is self-published—and self-edited, which explains, in part, the grammar and typographical errors throughout the text. I’ll begin by sharing a few in the more egregious sin category:  “He felt that his purpose for living now lied with her” (31). “Although, Jane thought that it was refreshing to see Lizzy show an interest” (43). Semi-colon abuse occurs repeatedly (47, 53). Verbs are used incorrectly. One doesn’t “relent her attentions”—unless one is the narrator of this story (83). The Duke reminds himself “to expect or antagonize over nothing more” (96). He later tells Mr. Bennet that the latter has “raised incredible and quite remarkable young lady” (145). Caroline Bingley is called “Carolina” (173). Georgiana says to Darcy that she is “so happy for your Fitzwilliam” (175).

In fact, language errors aside, many details don’t completely make sense. Why would Mrs. Bennet ridicule Mrs. Hurst’s clothing? (43) And how, if, when Darcy apologizes, Elizabeth is still sitting in the same spot she was when Darcy first offended her, would Mrs. Bennet know that Darcy had spoken ill of Lizzy in the first place? (40-43) Mr. Bingley takes over the estate from his uncle? Then he is old money, and we know he isn’t (45). What happened to origins in trade? Even if Bingley’s father were a second son, the younger brother of a lord would not go into trade! Illogical: if Sir William thinks Darcy will say no, why would he offer up Elizabeth as a dance partner? (54) Awkward jumps: Elizabeth walks to Netherfield NOT knowing Jane has taken ill? Why cut that part out? (59)

There are also details that are either completely unnecessary or directly from a movie version and not from the novel. Darcy’s eyes are blue and Lizzy’s green. Is that necessary? Such specificity felt strangely limiting. Additions to the dialogue do not enhance it. Austen’s lines are great in many cases because they are so succinct. When Caroline, for instance, tries to bond with Darcy by insulting Elizabeth, there are so many more words in this version that the sting of Darcy’s unexpected rebuttal is lessened (63). But at least those ARE Darcy’s lines. Far worse interpretations occur with lines such as, “the expression” of those eyes “pierced his soul,” which comes right from Matthew MacFadyen’s mouth (51). A “fearsome thing to behold” similarly comes from Keira Knightley, not from Elizabeth Bennet (67). Lizzy and the dogs is from the BBC (76). The “About the Author” section even says now Cecil “just watches the movie over and over (and over) again” (381). While I certainly understand that pleasure, perhaps the best sequels/retellings occur when the author is most familiar with the novel.

Much to my surprise, however, I started to notice the changing of Austen’s lines less and the compelling story, more, as Cecil’s version progressed. Mr. Bennet has a big secret in this variation, and also quite a temper, which he uses to keep Mrs. Bennet from making a mess of everything. In this version, Darcy wants to declare his intentions early on but worries Elizabeth might refuse him. It becomes a fun story with differences from any version we have read or seen, including such instances as the Duke meeting his daughter, Darcy getting jealous, and Elizabeth catching on to Wickham right away. Just when all seems well, the Lady Catherine visit changes everything in a very different way from the original. I suspected that the circumstances of Elizabeth’s birth might turn out to be just what was needed, but, for a long time, that is not what happens. Why does no one think to use the information to reassure Elizabeth? Or even Lady Catherine? On the other hand, waiting for Darcy’s realization is good, too. I loved the irony that Elizabeth wears the pearls the Duke gave her mother—with his coat of arms on the clasp—to the opera he invites her to attend! (249)

By this point, the story has become so compelling I hardly noticed the grammar errors—well, almost (“They both commented on how wonderful she played” 305). The last 100 pages or so just fly, and there are moments when any fan of Lizzy and Darcy squeals aloud with delight at how their lives develop.

And of course, who could not enjoy a story in which the characters, like us, go shopping and then need a “refreshing afternoon nap” (311)?

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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