Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy

Title: The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy

Author: Maya Slater

Publisher: W. W. Norton

# of Pages: 324

Rating: 5/10

This review is based on an advance reader's copy.

From Booklist
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy is one of the most fascinating heroes in literature. Other writers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to capture some of that old Darcy magic. This time around, we are made privy to Darcy’s secret diary. Though the story presented in the diary entries adheres to the structure of Pride and Prejudice, the Bennets, even including Elizabeth herself, are very much in the background, while other characters, such as the Bingleys and Darcy’s sister Georgiana, play a larger role. While trying to fend off his growing attachment to Lizzie, “an undersized young lady of doubtful family,” Darcy recounts his day-to-day activities—managing his estate, looking after his sister, engaging in pastimes with his disreputable friend Lord Byron that would make the ladies at Longbourn blush. Austen knockoffs should always be judged on their own merits, and if the Darcy presented here isn’t quite her Darcy, or yours, the book is still a smart and entertaining period piece.

I respectfully disagree with Booklist on this novel. I have always been very wary of fan fiction novels, and there is an overabundance of published Jane Austen fan fiction. But what can I say- I love Mr. Darcy! At least, I love Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy. I don't really care for Maya Slater's one way or another.

Mr. Darcy has always seemed to me a brooding and mysterious man who, very much against his will, falls in love with a bright and lovely young woman who is his social inferior. He is not boring. He certainly is not the sort of person who would be friends with Lord Byron. He is not unfashionable, and he certainly doesn't spend his days cataloging his library. However, that is who he is to Maya Slater, which is unfortuate. I am not entirely sure why Maya Slater even likes Darcy, based on her portrayal of him.

One thing that annoyed me, period-wise, in this book: Darcy refers to Bingley's sisters as Mrs. Luisa and Miss Caroline. This is incorrect for Regency language; they should have been Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley (unless there is another older, single sister present. This was not the case). I know it is a small detail, but detail is very important in historical fiction!

Also, I just do not understand how Mr. Darcy (and to an even greater extent, Mr. Bingley) could have possibly been friends with someone like Lord Byron. They spend a great deal of time together in the book, and it just does not work, chemistry-wise. I feel that Slater introduced Byron to the novel so that she could share some of the more risque aspects of Regency life. However, I don't think Darcy was really the sort who would do such things. He is, after all, very proud of how proper he is. I am not saying he went to his wedding night a sainted virgin, but I can't imagine that he was nearly as dissolute as Slater makes him out to be in this novel.

My biggest complaint, though, is that Darcy in Slater's novel is just boring. He is not a three-dimensional character at all. In the novel, he barely even interacts with Elizabeth Bennet, so it is very hard to see how he falls in love with her. He spends a lot of time mulling things over (which, granted, goes well with his brooding character). Most of his diary entries, in my opinion, are quite dull. He talks about going shooting, cataloging books, feeling guilty about Charles Bingley, and remembering Elizabeth Bennet's eyes. It is interesting insofar as we get a glimpse of his relationships with his sister, with Lady de Burgh and with Caroline Bingley, but we do not really get to know Darcy himself. Even in his diary, he seems to hold himself just aloof enough to withhold any information we really want to know. And since the plot, really, follows the same timeline as Pride & Prejudice, and we know, generally, what will happen... this book didn't really add much to my experience of Jane Austen's novel. If you want to read Pride & Prejudice, then read the original. If you want to read it from Darcy's point of view, I have it on good authority that Pamela Aidan's series is the best. And if you want to see a fantastically brooding Darcy... then go find Colin Firth!


  1. Great review! I have deliberately stayed away from the Austin fan fiction for many of the reasons that you disliked this book. I don't really want my characters spoiled, and most often, these books and characters are best left to Austin. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you, and I can't help but think I wouldn't have liked it either.

  2. I haven't read any of the fan fiction Austen stuff either because....well, because the author is not Jane Austen. This book doesn't sound like it would change my mind in the slightest! Lord Byron and Mr Darcy? Talk about an odd couple.

  3. I've read a ton of JA fanfiction, and it's not all bad, believe me, there is some very well done fanfiction out there, you just have to know where to find it! But, being as it may, this book sounds dull and I'm sorry you had to read it! The whole Byron end of it sounds so farfetched and off the mark, and I agree, so totally unlike Darcy to even have anything to do with Byron and that ilk in society. If you're interested in reading some very good P&P fanfiction, I can point you in the right direction, with some specific stories, I know that JA world very well.

  4. Interesting and thoughtful review. We had opposite reactions. I have read many, if not all, of the Darcy retellings out there. If you found this one boring with all the Regency era manly activities going on, then you will definetly dislike the more staid and traditional views in print.

    I do appreciate your strong voice, even though we are at the opposite end of the enjoyment spectrum.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose

  5. Laurel Ann, it was actually your review on the book that caused me to grab it when I was looking into it for Early Reviewers! I can definitely see why you liked the book, but I just don't think it's my cup of tea.

    I love the term "Regency era manly activities." :-)

    Julie, please let me know of any titles you suggest!

    Carrie and Zibilee- As book twins (triplets?), I feel like you would have the same reaction as me to the book, but let me know if you read it!

  6. Thanks for the review.... I am just starting to dabble in Austen for the challenge and there is so much to weed through - the originals, the movies, and now all this new stuff... which in some cases makes me wonder if Jane Austen isn't rolling over in her grave....

    I want a true sense of Austen and I will avoid this one. :)

  7. I quite enjoy Austen fan-fiction, but this one just didn't quite work for me. Really, I just didn't think there was enough Elizabeth in the story for the love story to work for me. She just barely seemed to feature at all.

    I enjoyed your review, so I've linked to you here.


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