Before reading The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy by Maya Slater, I decided that I was due for a reread of Pride and Prejudice so it would be fresh in my mind when I read this book. I think that helped me enjoy The Private Diary more than I would have had I not done a reread, but unfortunately it also brought to my attention more inconsistencies than I would have noticed had I not had Pride and Prejudice fresh in my mind.
The main problem I noticed was in Darcy himself; I found him to be quite different from Austen's Darcy. Slater's version just seemed like far too much of a pushover lacking in self-confidence; I can't imagine Austen's Darcy ever going along with things someone like Lord Byron plans (yes, he was a character in this version, which could have been interesting, but I just found his addition to be annoying, probably because I hated his character, but I digress) or frequenting brothels and prostitutes. Now, I can understand a man in his late twenty's not being a virgin until marriage, especially in that time period when those sorts of ladies were easy to be found, but I just could not see someone with Austen's Darcy's morality and confidence feeling the need to visit that type of woman so frequently (honestly, it just made me feel sorry for Elizabeth in case Darcy had acquired some sort of disease. Maybe I'm the only one who thought that, but maybe not). I also can't see Darcy as being so low in self-confidence as Slater wrote him to be, following behind Byron in his unsavory escapades, nor can I see him so blindly believing what cronies of Wickham (the man he very much despises) say about Elizabeth's sister, which is the main cause of a lot of Darcy's problems. Austen's Darcy seems more intelligent than to believe people he wouldn't trust or like.
For some information, while I think Austen's Darcy is an okay character, I'm not one of the women who are head over heels in love with him, and he's certainly not my favorite Austen character. You can take my opinion of Slater's Darcy as an unbiased opinion on that front, not as someone who can't bear to see him shown in a negative light; this is just the opinion of someone with knowledge of Austen's works who enjoys good characterization.
Don't get me wrong, The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy is a good book; it's well written and Slater definitely has a firm grasp on the culture and time period of the original. I enjoyed her version of the plot, and some of the changes to characters I did like; I found Darcy's sister Georgiana to be interesting. While different from Austen's, Georgiana was so little in Pride and Prejudice that there was room to change her character around creatively (for instance, not making her as meek as she appears in Pride and Prejudice, which I thought was a neat touch!). You can't really change around an already detailed character, though, without people getting somewhat annoyed or taking away the enjoyment of their reading. Really, I found the rest of the characters interesting and pretty accurate (except Byron who just got on my nerves, like I mentioned above), and, when I could get past Darcy's change, he was interesting, as well.
I think with just a little more consistency with Darcy, this could have been a great sequel to Pride and Prejudice; as it is, it was a book I would recommend to fans of Austen, but probably at the same time I tell them "don't expect this to be exactly Austen". I'd give this book 2.5 stars out of 5. I hate giving such a negative review to anything, but good (and accurate, in the case of someone writing someone else's characters) characterization is such an important factor to me that if it's in any way lacking, I'm inclined to not enjoy the book as much as I could have. Characters are what make a book, in my eyes.
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