Back in 2008, I was fortunate enough to have been loaned a copy of 2005's Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and the gorgeous Matthew Macfadyen (yes, I was a little late in catching the film. Working and studying at the same time could really kill your leisure hours, believe me. Hehehe! J).
I've always been drawn to period movies and well, this looked promising enough. By the end of this 2-hour film, I knew I was hooked. It
I love the movie so much that I, eventually, broke my vow of never reading a classical novel ever again after taking High School English Literature class and picked up a copy of this Jane Austen favorite. Although I still don't like reading the classics, I did yearn for more after finishing the novel.
Later on, I found out that I was not alone in having harbored lovesick fantasies about my very own Mr. Frtizwilliam Darcy (btw, I've since married my own, thank you very much. Yihii!) And while searching the net, I came across a number of imagined sequels and spin-off books penned by fans (Jan Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF, if you must) of the original novel.
As you may very well know, there are no actual sequels to Pride and Prejudice; but since hundreds of Ms. Austen's fans love the original so much, they published their own stories using the novel's main characters -- some imagined sequels (the Darcy's married lives, etc.) and spin-offs or re-imaginings (the what-if scenarios).
I couldn't believe how many there are! I'm not a picky JAFF reader (although I highly doubt I'll be reaching for a vampire or zombie-inspired spin-off tale soon); and after first browsing though one (Jane Odiwe's Mr. Darcy's Secret), I too got addicted! Since April of this year, I have thus finished around 20 (and still counting) JAFF novels -- all penned by different authors, all Austen fans.
Here's just a few of my thoughts on some that I was able to read:
Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe
Another part of the tale is about Georgiana, Darcy's younger sister, and how she was finally able to find true love after her heart breaking betrayal by Wickham.
I love the novel since it also features Georgiana and her journey to overcoming her nightmare betrayal and finding her perfect mate. I was so happy that she was able to finally find her ideal partner.
The thing I noticed with most of these sequels and re-imaginings is that, having been penned by fans of Ms. Austen herself, they in a way would always want a happy ending for their favorite characters. This is all well and good, but in their quest of doing so, they oftentimes write scenarios that sound like highly unusual coincidences.
This is the same with Mr. Darcy's Secret. Although I am quite happy with the happy ending of Georgiana's love story, how her beloved was finally able to secure financial stability is highly doubtful and unusual. It's still a nice book to read though, just don't mind the farfetched coincidences.
A Novel of Fritzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aidan
An Assembly Such as This, the first in the trilogy, was the 2nd Pride and Prejudice-inspired JAFF I've read. The 3 books tells the story of the original novel from the point of view of Mr. Darcy. Book 2 (Duty and Desire) goes a step further. It tries to imagine what our main man was doing during the period after he left Longbourn (the Bennets' home) to when he meets Elizabeth again in Kent. And book 3 (These Three Remain) covers the rest till their wedding day.
It's a very engaging read; one that gives a very interesting view point of Mr. Darcy's struggles in his quest to win Elizabeth's heart. Admittedly, I finished the whole trilogy in a week (would have been sooner but I could only read my books at night when the Little One was finally asleep. Hehehe!) Ms. Aidan pens a really nice story without deviating much from the main events of the original novel.
Falling for Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
My most favorite, so far. In KaraLynne Mackrory's Falling for Mr. Darcy, our main man comes to the aid of Elizabeth after she accidentally sprains her ankle in the forest (this happens a few days after the dance where they meet for the very first time -- as detailed in the original novel). From this initial encounter, their lives are changed as each comes to view the other in a different light.
This novel is quite different from the other fan fiction re-imaginings I've read. It's a whole different story and, as can be expected, does not detail or rehash those important scenes from the original novel (i.e. Lydia's marriage to Wickham, Darcy's disastrous proposal in Kent, etc.)
I also liked reading about a sensible and intelligent Mr. Bennet (Elizabeth's father). Such a contrast from the usual detached nature he is usually portrayed in in other JAFF novels. I also enjoyed reading that in the end, even Mr. Darcy highly respects the man for his thoughtful actions and decisions. It was a welcome and, I must admit, a very pleasant surprise to find such a loving father in the Bennet household.
My only gripe is that I don't like the cover. It's a little eerie for my taste; but that's just me. J
Abigail Reynolds's Pride and Prejudice Variations
Abigail Reynolds has, I believe, around 8 books in her Pride and Prejudice variations (with the 9th to be released this month) series. All novels changed the outcome of a few key scenes in the original book, giving each an alternative path; but all leading to a happily together after for Elizabeth and Darcy, of course.
I've read all 8 so far, and I have to say I have mixed feelings with each one. There are a lot of elements I loved (like Georgiana blossoming after becoming close friends with the Bennet sisters in What Would Mr. Darcy Do? and Mr. Darcy seeking Elizabeth out in London after learning her father died in Mr. Darcy's Obsession).
I do, however, find it tiring to read about a Mr. Darcy who seems to always act ungentlemanly in each novel. I guess like other fans of the book, I've also been drawn to Darcy's quiet but thoughtful nature. He's reserved and civil (for the most part) and takes his responsibilities to his family to heart. And in my mind, he's a gentleman through and through, respecting women and never taking advantage.
In the case of these Pride and Prejudice variations, I was surprised that Darcy was taking many liberties with Elizabeth, and with the latter agreeing to most of them is, well, unnerving. It's like my favorite character has been partly erased and I am left with a shell of the original. I don't consider myself a prude, but I do love a simple chaste love story from time to time. With the types of "romance" novels that have been coming out of the woodwork nowadays, it was such a nice change to read about a respectful and loving relationship without the sexual tension and even the act itself.
Most of the novels in these variations find Elizabeth and Darcy professing their love early on into the tale. For the most part, I was actually enjoying it; but later on, was starting to find it so tiresome to read about the couple kissing, cuddling, doing something lovey dovey in almost every chapter after the admission. By the middle of the story, I was about ready to puke. Too much of a good thing, I guess.
And let's talk about Elizabeth being such a push over and a cry baby in Mr. Fritzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World. Having been forced to marry Darcy after being caught in a compromising position, the Lizzy in this story just seems to have lost her spark, crying a lot over little things. Darcy is always angry in the novel, as well. And when you think that their problems would have been just as easily solved with them simply being open with their feelings in the first place, it just adds to the frustration. Although I bet it would have made for a much shorter tale. Hehehe!
In most of the novels in these variations, the Darcys almost always seem to have a hurried wedding due to some situation or another. It just doesn't fit my idea of what their perfect nuptials should be like.
There's still a long list of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs in on my to-read list. I can't wait to find another gem! *sigh*