Friday, March 25, 2011

Mr. Darcy: The Last Man in the World

Alright! I confess! I'm a Jane Austen addict and I'm obsessed with Pride and Prejudice! Mr. Darcy is my drug! There we go! Out in the open! :) My 3rd P & P 'sequel' in less than a month and definitely the best one I've read so far!

Written by Abigail Reynolds, Mr. Darcy: The Last Man in the World branches off from the middle of P & P, from Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth. Why does sensible Eliza agree to marry disagreeable Mr. Darcy? Because he kisses her, assuming in his arrogance that she would not refuse him, and is spotted by Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy believes Elizabeth returns his love, while she has agreed to marry him only because she believes she has been compromised.

Elizabeth begins her married life with much discontent, despite Darcy's constant attentions. He bestows upon Mrs. Darcy, mistress of Pemberly, all his love, admiration and respect and strives to be a good husband to her. He does, however,  ask her to cut off correspondence with her family (I must mention here that his proposal is exactly the same as in P & P; the outcome is different).

Georgiana believes Eliza is a fortune hunter, and Eliza believes in Wickham's description of her sister-in-law. It is only with the visit of Colonel Fitzwilliam that Elizabeth finally reveals to Darcy that she had had no intention of accepting his offer of marriage, this when Darcy confronts her out of jealousy. All of the accusations, that we are familiar with, are laid at Darcy's door, and he storms out, angry, offended and upset.

He does offer her an explanation about Wickham's character, but it is Georgiana who reveals the whole story when Lydia's elopement comes to light. Elizabeth, in the mean time, begins to see Darcy in new light. She sees the wonderful husband he is (or had been), the respectable landlord and powerful man that he truly is. Slowly, after a whole set of unspoken misunderstandings and assumptions by both parties are sorted out one by one, Darcy and Elizabeth admit their mutual feelings of love and respect for each other. This time Elizabeth using all the words that Jane Austen had Darcy use! And soon they loved and lived happily every after!

It seemed a little melodramatic, Elizabeth's reactions to Darcy. But with him I can find no fault! Reynold's may have not given full credit to Elizabeth's sensibility as Austen would've liked, but she does deal with the character in a believable manner. There is depth and perception. There are moments that my spine tingled, and my fingers trembled, as they do every time I read P & P, so it is safe to say this is definitely one of the best P & P companion novels I've read so far!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin

You know The Oatmeal. Right? If you don't, then you've obviously been living in the mountains, so deep in the forests that you have no contact with civilization.

The Oatmeal! Matthew Inman's comic blog! Well, quick introduction to the twisted genius then - he started the blog in 2009, put up original hilarious comics and became a web sensation! I've been reading his comics for about a year now and they are quite the read! There's a blend of the obscene to the downright stupid, but all of it told in Inman's now famous way become terribly funny. That's why I even bought his book - 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and Other Useful Guides)! I must warn you that it isn't for the faint hearted - I mean those that get easily offended, just don't read it. It's not worth your time. As for me? Well, it isn't comparable to Calvin & Hobbes or Peanuts, but it's so much fun to be seeing current trends and normal thoughts presented in such an amusing manner!

It has the right mix of information and sarcasm that will make you grin as you go through each of the comics. My natural favorites are the ones concerning language: How to Use an Apostrophe, How to Use a Semicolon (the most feared punctuation) and (this is my personal favorite) 10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling.

There are others that I liked too. While many of the comics in this book are reproductions from the Oatmeal (blog) - like Minor Differences, 8 Ways to Prepare Your Pets for War, The Three Phases of Owning a Computer, How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell, The 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees, How to Suck at Facebook, and Why It's Better to Pretend You Don't Know Anything About Computers - others are exclusive to the book - like "7 Reasons to Avoid Going to a Night Club"; "Why Nikola Tesla is the most Awesome Geek who Ever Lived".

I've listed 9 of the comics that caught my eye in this book; there are at least 20 more in there that deserve at least one read through. I guarantee, no matter how stern faced or cold hearted you are, you will laugh.

It makes for a fun, short, quickie when you're by yourself - at the coffee shop, at lunch, traveling... just lounging about. It's worth it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Searching for Pemberley

I'm not insane. I picked this book up on a whim - only because it happened to fall in my line of sight while at the library a few weeks back. I have been reading a bunch of history books of late (my fascination of history being an insatiable one), so I thought this may be fun enough. How utterly wrong I was.

Written by Mary Lydon Simonsen, Searching for Pemberly is set in the post Word War II period - mainly England - when the world is just coming to terms with the disaster of it. The protagonist, Maggie Joyce, leaves her home town of Minooka, a mining town in Pennsylvania, and travels to Germany and England on her job with the AARC. Almost as soon as she settles down in a small room in London, she embarks on a journey to see Jane Austen's world for herself. The world Jane Austen created in P&P, to be precise. The twist? That Jane Austen took a story, of the love between Will Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, their families and friends, and made it into Pride and Prejudice. Far-fetched? I suppose. But I was curious to know how Simonsen would manage it.

When Maggie visits Montclair, she is told by the very friendly Beth and Jack Crowell that this is 'Permberly' not Chatsworth House as the world thinks it to be. And that the real Darcy and Elizabeth lived there! The story then weaves through a LOT of history, not just the people that we all know from P&P, but the war, and almost every back story of each and every character in this novel. Along the way, as Maggie searches for proof of this claim, she falls in love with an American pilot Rob, and with the Crowell's son Michael. Through the letters and diaries of Miss Austen's real life characters, and conversations with Beth and Jack, Maggie learns of the lives of people that lived 150 years ago, and how they were made famous by a smart English lady! She also makes the connection that the Crowells are descendants of the Laceys (or as the author points out in every page, the Darcys) a third of the way through the novel, and the other two-thirds are devoted to Maggie's relationship issues, details descriptions of new characters, the war, more history, P&P. It all finally ends back in Minooka, when Maggie discovers that she wants to leave home and that she is in love with Michael, something the reader is well will happen from almost their first meeting.

Now, I've never been one for romantic novels, so I must say that this was a good read in that arena. I'm also into history. But this novel, while accurately portraying the times and events around and following the end of the second World War, drags you through a whole load of unwanted details. There's too much in it! There's Rob, the American pilot and Maggie's man through most of the book. His description of almost each and every day of his life as a pilot gets painfully boring. Then there's Jack and Beth - their story, though necessary to some extent, went into too much narration by both characters. And each of their relations that play a role in P&P as well. Oh! How could I not mention the in-depth story of the actual relationships between each of the people that inspired Jane Austen! It's just way too much information for a simple and, what might have been, an enjoyable read!

I've read long books, with a lot of detail in them - I slogged through Gone With the Wind at a very young age, for the love of books! But this one did wear me out in a different way. It's very well written, and I appreciate, truly, the effort that Simonsen has put into researching England in the mid-1940s and in the 19th century, though most of that seems to be based off P&P itself. I also appreciate the importance she has placed on letter-writing between Austen's real life models (Austen, as we know, was an avid letter writer, and used that as a means of communication between her characters in her novels). I also appreciate the Darcy/Lacey mix, and the explanation that goes into the families and their behaviors. But it gets tedious after a couple hundred pages.

While I do believe that with a bit more editing this novel could have been made more exciting, and even fast paced, I wouldn't recommend this book quite so fervently as I would other historical romances or P&P companions. One question I repeatedly asked myself was, "Why did the Crowells take Maggie, a perpetual stranger from another land, in and disclose their family's history and intimate secrets to her so readily?"

It's good. You can put the book down anytime you want and start again from where you left off without feeling that you've forgotten the story. It's slow paced enough for an elongated reading. But if it is a historical romance or a good P&P spin-off that you are looking for, then I would recommend you start elsewhere and come to this at a later point in time.