Dear Mr. Darcy

004

 

by Amanda Grange

Published 2012

Okay, I admit it: I’m a sucker for a good Pride & Prejudice retelling/sequel.  Tragically, there are FAR more bad ones than there are good ones.  Some of the ones that are delightful ideas involve rather graphic love scenes (Abigail Reynolds…  her ideas are really intriguing; her stories frequently just smut).  Just not my thing.  But every once in a while, I’ll find one actually worth the reading.  And Dear Mr. Darcy falls into that category for me.

Basically, Grange uses letters to tell the entire story of Pride & Prejudice, and she uses this format to give us insights into characters whose perspectives are not always explored in the original story.  By starting a few years before P&P opens, Grange also allows us to see how the death of Mr. Darcy’s father shaped a great deal of his future thoughts, words, and actions.  The letters also incorporate some found in the original story (think: Mr. Collins’s letter to Mr. Bennet), although not all of them (for instance, Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth after his disastrous proposal in Kent).  Grange also explores some of the more minor characters (like Mary), and gives some plausible reasons/pen-pals by creating a family that actually owns Netherfield, but is forced to lease it out.  (By making one of the daughters of this family Elizabeth’s friend, Grange creates another person in whom Elizabeth can confide, as Charlotte does not always fit the bill.  There are also daughters who are friends of Mary – surprisingly entertaining – and Lydia/Kitty.)

All in all, this is a frivolous, fun, clean little romp through the characters of Pride & Prejudice, and, for once, one that I don’t think would make Austen turn in her grave.  4/5.

The Cat-Nappers

001

 

by P.G. Wodehouse

Published 1974

And so we arrive at the final volume of Bertie/Jeeves adventures.  I don’t know that Wodehouse necessarily intended it to be the final volume (although he was in his 90’s when he wrote it, so he had to have at least suspected that it could be), and it is filled with precisely the sort of entanglements and misunderstands that compound every Wodehouse novel.

I have really, REALLY enjoyed reading all of the Bertie books in their published order.  While I had read almost all of them at one time or another, it had always been rather haphazard and slapdash, just grabbing up whatever one happened to be handy.  While each one reads independently without any trouble, reading them in order has really increased my enjoyment of each book.  Seeing characters reappear and watching background stories chase from one book to another just adds to the delight and the understanding of exactly how big of a pickle Bertie is in this time.

As always, Wodehouse’s knack of perfect description has to the potential to make me laugh out loud:

He couldn’t have been more emotional if he had been a big shot in the Foreign Office and I a heavily veiled woman diffusing a strange exotic scent whom he had caught getting away with the Naval Treaty.

or

The aunt to whom I alluded was my good and deserving Aunt Dahlia, not to be confused with my Aunt Agatha who eats broken bottles and is strongly suspected of turning into a werewolf at the time of the full moon.  Aunt Dahlia is as good a sort as ever said “Tally Ho” to a fox … If she ever turned into a werewolf, it would be one of those jolly breezy werewolves whom it is a pleasure to know.

Pure gold, folks.

As an aside, I accidentally checked out a large-print edition, so I felt like I was flying through this book.

The alternate title for this book is also its final line, and, to me, truly sums up not only this story, but every story Wodehouse ever wrote:  “Aunts aren’t gentlemen.”