Sunday, April 21, 2013

P&P Challenge: Mr. Darcy's Diary

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It's told through the eyes of Mr. Darcy as he writes in his diary and fights his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet, and there are added or removed parts, of course, since the original was told from Elizabeth's point-of-view.

First Impression: So far, I like the story, but something is bothering me. I's too easy. Maybe I like the story because, essentially, it's Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, just told from a different point of view. I'm sure that I'm wrong about this, but at this point it seems like Grange just read the novel once or twice and then wrote her own version. Some of her viewpoints on Mr. Darcy's emotions are interesting to me, but they don't feel like the result of an in-depth character study, which I think should be necessary when writing a piece such as this. And if I didn't know the author's name, I would still know this was written by a woman. I don't mean to nitpick, but right now it's hard for me to really get into the book. I'm hoping it grows on me as I go on.

Conclusion: I feel like I was unfair in my first impression, because it's obvious that Amanda Grange did her homework. There are many points in the book where she references the social decorum and fashionable styles of the time and place in which the story is set. But the homework she did was just that: the time and place in which the story is set. I still think she could have gone farther into the mind of Mr. Darcy. There was so little mention of things that would have been prominent in his mind--business, for example. Darcy's relationship with his sister, Georgiana, also bothers me. While it's obvious that he loves her and worries about her, I would expect them to be a bit closer than they are in Grange's story. (Speaking of Georgiana, how does she get over Wickham so fast? While the mention of him still makes her "uncomfortable," she seems to pretty much dismiss him as soon as her brother says jump. I would think that the subject would be more painful to her, even if she doesn't still love him, since she had spent so much time with him and planned to elope in such an uncharacteristic way.)

I should tell you that I do not read a lot of sequels or adaptations of classics, so my comparisons can only be to the classics themselves or to other, completely separate books that I have read. I probably enjoyed this book more than I would one about Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's romance after the wedding. Primarily, Grange's re-interpretation of Pride and Prejudice is a romance, where the woman challenges the man and he struggles to resist his love for her. It may not be quite as dramatic as all that, but that is the basic premise. I enjoyed the book, but I probably won't read it again.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Shopgirl by Steve Martin is about a girl, Mirabelle, who works at a glove counter and sometimes makes charcoal drawings in her free time. Mirabelle is generally bored and often depressed, and Martin's novella is about her experiences as two new men enter her life and how her world is changed by them.

First Impression: Shopgirl by Steve Martin has the dry, understated humor that I've come to expect from the author. I never really know whether I like his characters or not, especially in the beginning of each book, and I'm still on the fence about the characters in this one. One thing I have realized is that I like his stories more when I'm listening to him read them than I do when reading them myself. Something in his tone, perhaps, changes the meaning of several sentences for me. I plan on watching the movie after listening to the piece, and I'm curious how the characters will transfer to screen.

Conclusion: I kind of predicted where the story was going, but that didn't ruin it for me. The characters became a little more balanced later in the novella, and even though I could not relate to any of them, I liked how they turned out. The ending has a smooth, comfortable feel to it, and everything felt resolved when the story ended. Although I enjoyed The Pleasure of My Company, another short piece by Martin, a bit more, Shopgirl is a nice, quick piece to read once or twice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

State of Wonder

 State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is about a pharmacologist, Dr. Marina Singh, who is sent to the Amazon upon the death of her partner to check on the progress of a drug (for continued fertility in aging women) being developed by her former teacher. Upon acceptance into the arms of the studied tribe, Marina finds that nothing is how she expected it to be, and everything she discovers will change her view of her teacher, herself, and the world.

First Impression: Patchett's novel starts out with a stony tone. I did not initially feel connected to the characters, but after a few pages, I felt that the tone matched the subject well. This is not an uplifting book, at least so far. The main character is dealing with the death of a friend and colleague as well as a lot of problems she never fully addressed in the past. The characters and plot of this book are like lettuce leaves, revealing themselves more and more as each layer is removed. I find it very intriguing and am unable to make concrete predictions on the outcome of the novel.

Conclusion: I'll admit, when I first started this book, I did not necessarily expect to like it. With as many tears as it cost me, you might conclude that I didn't like it in the end, but I did. Patchett has a beautiful way of writing that describes things you would never expect and answers questions you would never think to ask. The places to which she takes you are at once horrible and beautiful; it seems to change at each moment. Patchett is not afraid to write about the uncomfortable and, sometimes, really terrible parts that are integral to the story. In fact, sometimes she jumps in very suddenly, and I am so shocked that I am unsure how to react afterward. All-in-all, this book is fantastic, but don't read it if you are wanting a happy ending. Not that it is unhappy per se, but there are two sides to everything in this novel, and sometimes it is hard to tell on which side you are standing.