Susan's Reviews > Me and Mr. Darcy

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter
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's review
Nov 02, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction-adult
Read in September, 2007

As an unashamed FOJ (friend of Jane) and a diehard fan of Pride and Prejudice in particular, I am often compelled to read contemporary retellings, spinoffs, and homages out of the same primal urge that leads other people to sneak a look at the car wreck on the side of the road. The end result is never pretty and I feel bad about myself afterward, but I do it anyway. This book brought no pleasant surprises, in spite of what initially seemed to be a fresh angle. What I thought was something quite different turned out to be just another modernization of the P & P story, only with a supernatural element thrown in, possibly in a stab at humor but unfortunately not entirely succeeding in this aim. The modern Darcy equivalent was fairly entertaining, colorful, and (thank goodness) not another fictionalized Colin Firth--which made it that much more disappointing when the character is obligated to write the requisite mea culpa e-mail (it's modern!) that stretches the reader's credulity to the breaking point for several reasons--not the least of which is that it sounds nothing like him. Truth be told, I'm not sure anyone could pull off that plot device today when unhappily, letter writing is a lost art, so it's hard to hold that against the author (Alexandra Potter)too much. In fact, I forgive her the whole thing actually because what is clear from the abundance of good intentions in this book, is that Potter really is a true Jane Austen fan and (to borrow from another literary hero of mine) we've all at some point or another been guilty of loving not too wisely, but too well.
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Rebecca excellent review. i just now read the book and i was interested in other people's opinions of the book and i really like yours. i agree with your observation that while the plot was contrived, it was still obvious that potter is a huge jane austen fan. overall, i didnt like the book because i feel like its the kind of thing that i (your totally average writer) could write if i worked REALLY hard at it, as opposed to the book having the type of mastery of the english language that only great writers have.

Lorraine if potter indeed loves austen, then wilde's observation that "each man kills the thing he loves/ some do it with a word" is only too appropriate.

for that matter I don't think potter even loves austen, she thinks that she's cleverer than austen, but she's not. It's not the realism that bothers me (it is fiction after all), but the lack of self-reflexivity the silly book exhibits, isn't it? I mean, given the kind of license she takes in letting the protagonist 'meet' darcy, it is ridiculous to conclude that the 'real' man gets the girl (ie, spike). None are real, both are fictional, you would've thought that she might have realised this... in other words, don't contradict your theme by means of plot or language (unless you are Vladimir Nabokov, who does this so cleverly a meta point is made).

It is also ridiculous to 'critique' darcy for being patriarchal, since elizabeth herself is complicit in this system... we won't know what darcy might have thought of the 'modern woman' because that just wasn't feasible then -- if you were upper middle class, english and female -- then you really had very little choice in terms of jobs etc. It seems in Austen's world, working women as an idea never occurs to the women or the men. The patriarchy, if one wants to poke at this idea, is inherent in Austen's narrow little world, and NOT in any one character. In fact, it's not inherent in Austen perhaps, but the world she portrayed (she says she doesn't write about what she doesn't know) -- if one could help it -- in the 19th C -- an unmarried woman didn't work.

For that matter, there is a plot parallel which potter makes but again, is too stupid to realise, between spike and darcy. Who says darcy isn't the ideal guy? spike is modern-day darcy. Darcy is an archetype, he exists *across* time -- like all characters he has historical context, but what is appealing about him works outside of that. The idea of "Darcy" isn't defined by his 19th Century-ness, it is defined by his qualities; and this is true, Austen leaves the contextual descriptions to people like Mrs. Bennet and other unlikable people. We are merely told that Darcy was handsome and had a fine figure (his eye colour? his hair colour etc -- not impt). In the same line, when we go for "Darcy" that's because Darcy is defined by, and hence represents qualities we want (and this can take different forms in different historical -- cultural is another matter-- contexts): passionate, appreciative of a woman's intelligence, decent, handsome. Spike is all these things; it is ridiculous to say spike is preferred to darcy because he is more 'real'. Spike IS darcy, in the 21th century.

in short, I think potter is not just stupid, but actually likes austen only insofar as she can pat herself on being cleverer than austen. Grr.

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