I’ll freely admit to some initial skepticism. The story begins with a list of which stars each character’s music is designed to echo and continues with a documentary of Darcy in which various people who know him—Richard Fitzwilliam, George Wickham, etc—discuss him at various stages of his (often tragedy-filled) life.
There are some editing errors (e.g. “This was what I wanted to.” To WHAT? p. 6), though not nearly the number we’ve been seeing lately. Inserting grammar errors in the mouths of well-educated characters is a bit more egregious, as when Darcy says, of Georgiana, “She better not be skipping classes” (105). We’d hope Darcy would know there’s a missing “had” there. Charlotte may not, but her pronoun choice vexed this reader nonetheless: of Jane, she comments, “Charles and her spent the whole ride playing” (106). The narrator is not immune, as when this thought enters Elizabeth’s head about Wickham: “He had worked harder than her” (192). Really, this text had fewer mistakes than others, but why are there any? This is a book! Doesn’t that mean something anymore?
The text also is flawed by a few over-the-top—even for rock stars—comments, and even a few simply not smart choices. Chief among the latter was Jane’s tearful concern that people will say “she’s got a scar just like Harry Potter!” (94) Really? At least it’s not a cliché, however, unlike Elizabeth’s thought of Will that “he rankled her, like an itch she couldn’t reach to scratch,” which is too obvious as a sexual pun, and too hackneyed for anything else (45). Furthermore, stealing the drug plot point from Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason is NOT cool.
Worse, on several occasions, a character’s reaction (usually here, Elizabeth’s) just doesn’t make much sense, and other occurrences seem a bit too coincidental. When the two bands first meet, Darcy’s “keep your dicks clean” order is gross, but Elizabeth’s reaction doesn’t make much sense. Why does she think the comment means the guys think of them as whores? (21) Though I enjoyed the separate introduction scenes, it seems improbable that Darcy meets just Elizabeth; Bingley, Jane; and Robert, Charlotte. Once it’s clear that Jane and Charles get along nicely, it’s illogical that Elizabeth, who, at that point, does not like Darcy, would volunteer to ride in Slurry’s bus so Charles can ride with Jane. Charlotte would naturally volunteer so she could be with Richard, but, plot-wise, Rigaud needs Elizabeth on the bus (102). The speed is also occasionally off-base; one night with another guy (whose name suggests something evil, but then doesn’t deliver on that foreshadowing), and suddenly Caroline is not “carrying a torch for Darcy anymore” (189)? And the language . . . sigh. I know they’re rock bands, but this somehow feels like a violation of the “I don’t describe what I never could have been privy to” idea; do rock bands—supposedly with classy members—say things like: “I thought all three of you would do her together” (142)? More to the point, would even a modern Lizzy say that? I’m no rock star, but it seems crass. Her character is also a far cry from Austen’s Lizzy, as we see, for instance, when Elizabeth generates a good performance by “relish[ing] the power she (has) over” men (196). Yuck! She’s also inconsistent; first, she tells Lady Catherine that Elizabeth could hardly discuss a solo career “in front of [her] band mates,” but then she tells Lady Catherine that she doesn’t really want a “solo career” (149). Which is it? [Why is the first line in there—just to parallel the original’s parry about her age?]
This Elizabeth’s misunderstandings are far more frequent than they are in the original, and with less foundation. Darcy’s “brows come together” when Charles asks Jane to spend the day with him. We know Darcy doesn’t want Charles to make things awkward with their new partners, but Elizabeth assumes he thinks Jane is “using him to get what she would from him” (67). When she’s talking about growing up, Darcy’s stares at her deeply, and she thinks “he wasn’t enjoying her stories” because he’s “cold” (106). Elizabeth then misunderstands the effect of her undressing at the pool: Darcy jumps in the water, not because he isn’t “interested in watching” her but because he develops a problem only “cold water and exertion” can solve (138-39). She is an experienced woman, but she can’t figure that out? When she finally understands what he feels, we know there has to be some big fight or misunderstanding, but this reader really didn’t understand what Elizabeth is so upset about. It seems like conflict is introduced because there has to be conflict at this point in the story. Darcy seems like he did everything right . . . until she leaves, at which point, his character veers from what we know it to be; here, he hurls a vase and then pledges to teach her a lesson. Austen’s Darcy remakes himself after the failed proposal, and we wonder, at this point, how Rigaud is going to make that happen (262).
Criticism aside, this is a fun read. The background: Slurry (whose name’s significance only Elizabeth deduces) is the band Darcy formed with Wickham and Fitzwilliam to help deal with his anger; Darcy writes “anguished hard rock” (5). When Wickham behaves as himself (his actual crime is not revealed until rather late in the story), Bingley replaces Wickham as lead vocalist. Caroline (here, Charles’ twin) becomes tour manager (perfect job for her!).
As in any retelling, there are some changes to the original. Mary’s actually talented (and going to Julliard). I loved the camaraderie between Mary and Georgiana! The twist on Jane’s “illness” is clever, if a bit odd. Though Charlotte may be headed for the dread fate Austen gives her, Rigaud helps her escape in a most pleasant surprise change. Caroline, too, fares better here in the original. We actually feel pity for her (she really loves Darcy and isn’t just trying to snag a rich, well-positioned man), and is really a completely different character from Austen’s; Rigaud redeems her. The idea of a “California accent” made me smile (234); do people from other places think Californians have accents? The big awards ceremony becomes the Netherfield Ball—a reunion of sorts for Jane and Bingley and Darcy and Elizabeth, and Wickham tells Elizabeth he can’t go because of Darcy, so she gets angry at Darcy. The scene resolves, however . . . Uh, quite differently from the ball ;-).
The situations in which our two bands and six musicians find themselves lend themselves well to some new reasons for joy. The way Darcy handles Elizabeth when she’s nervous made me laugh, especially because he explains himself to her right after. The teasing goes both ways here! (116) The various reactions of band members to Richard’s problems with alcohol are SO in character. There’s a sweet scene, with Bingley soothing Jane, who panics before a flight (though Jane and Bingley have their first kiss on the plane in front of everyone? And why would Darcy ask other people: “why is Charles kissing Jane?” 51 Are they supposed to stop it?). Darcy has one of the great lines of the story when he says he didn’t study literature for his career; he studied it for his soul (108).
Though there are several mentions of the soul, this is very much a book about the body, and readers who elect to read it should be ready for the M rating it would earn if books earned such things.
Overall, a really fun, raunchy read.