Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley by Fenella J Miller
In Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley, Fenella J Miller returns to Jane Austen's best loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, giving an insight into both Charles and Jane's private thoughts through that difficult year. We discover what Jane did in London and how Charles filled the days until he was able to return to Netherfield. This book takes us past the wedding - when Kitty Bennet becomes the heroine of the hour. ""Jane Bennet is in the spotlight in Fenella-Jane Miller's delightful novel. We see Jane's growing love for Bingley as well as her view of Elizabeth and Darcy's unfolding relationship, and we find out what happened to her in London when she thought all was lost. Humorous, engaging and true to Jane Austen's world, this is a charming read for Austen fans."" Amanda Grange is the bestselling author of Mr Darcy's Diary, (Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary)
I am a bit in love with the idea of this book. I've always been so caught up in Lizzie and Darcy's story that I've sort of ignored all of the other connections in the book. I think each is really worth being explored - Lydia's disastrous marriage to Wickham, Charlotte's desperate marriage to Collins -- but especially the nearly thwarted love between Jane and Bingley. Here we have a couple who are enamored almost from the start, and there has to be a reason more than their general amiability. The idea of getting to explore this and experience all of the little flutters of budding love between these two, and then their painful separation, in which each is convinced the other doesn't love them, culminating in their glorious reunion -- this really appeals to me, and I think there is a lot of potential in it for a great story.
Unfortunately, I felt like I was reading a first draft of this story. I don't know if I've ever talked about my years spent as a college-level writing tutor (helping people write better papers, not helping people learn to write -- it always amuses me when people mistake what I did), but reading this, I felt Tutor Misty kick in. My hand was itching for sticky tabs and colored pens. I often had to read things over a second time to get the correct tone of it -- commas were misplaced or misused, or not in use at all when they should have been; quotes were unattributed, and pronouns were often unclear (ie: who the hell is talking, and who the hell is being talked about?). There were missing and incorrect words (dual v duel, etc -- and that's setting aside the fact that there was an effing duel in the story). I know there are people who can set things like this aside, or who don't know grammar rules themselves, so things like this just slip by them. I, however, had a hard time getting past it. I couldn't get into the flow because I was constantly wanting to correct.
I also wasn't totally convinced of the story Miller created. Jane and Bingley's time apart was filled with instances that I just didn't buy, and I felt the characters throughout the book (not just J & B), as well as their dialogue and actions just felt a bit forced and inauthentic. Things felt obvious and heavy-handed at times, and the prose was underdeveloped in favor of placing info and actions in the words of the characters, creating forced and unnatural dialogue, as well as a sense of dissatisfaction overall -- like I wasn't getting the meat of it, I was never really getting to delve into this hidden-in-plain-site love affair, which I was looking forward to doing.
Now, I hate writing really negative reviews, and I don't want to completely warn people off of this book. I think that with work and development, I could actually like it, but the combination of a pure "fanfic" feel, my expectations and desires for a nuanced and somewhat bittersweet love story, and my uber-tutor spideysense worked together to make me pretty critical of this one. I'm sorry that's the case, and I hope I don't make Ms. Miller mad, or regret participating in Jane in June, but such is life. I am always honest, if not completely tactful.