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Monday, June 27, 2011

Mr Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman by Maria Hamilton

Mr Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman
Maria Hamilton

When Elizabeth Bennet refuses his hand, Darcy is devastated and makes it his mission to change. By every civility in his power, Darcy slowly tries to win her affections, but Elizabeth is not easily swayed. Darcy vows to unlock the secrets that will make her his. He curses himself for his social awkwardness and appearance of pride, and sets out to right the wrongs he's done her family.

Elizabeth's family and friends misunderstand his intentions, and being in Elizabeth's presence proves to be both excruciating for the shy Darcy-and a dream come true. For the first time in his life, he must please a woman worth having, and the transformation leads him to a depth of understanding and love that he never could have imagined.

This one is kind of an odd one for me because I'm really torn.  On the one hand, there were times when I was completely in the flow of things and enjoying it.  It was pleasant and I liked the story and where Hamilton was going with it - even though it is not at all what I thought it was going to be.  I settled in prepared (purely based on the title and my own preconceptions) for the story of Darcy's time away from Lizzie after his disastrous proposal.  I thought it was going to be a fill in the blanks story that took us into Darcy's mind during their time apart, when he has his (seemingly miraculous, unexpected) transformation from arrogant ass to thoughtful heartthrob.  I didn't think it was going to be a "variations" type tale that would take the story to a point and then branch off into a different direction, which is what happened.  So I wasn't prepared for the story that was presented, and though I was able to adjust my thinking to that and go with it, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't getting the story I had prepared myself for.

But that was a tangent; sorry.  As I was saying, I was able to go with the story Hamilton set out, and enjoy it most of the time.  But what held me back - and really had me actually considering setting the book aside, despite the fact that I liked it most of the time - was that there was an incredible amount of dialogue.  It was endless.  They talked and talked and talked, and talked about talking before they talked some more.  I wanted to trim away so much of it.  It was unnecessary and unskillful, with so many things placed in people's mouths rather than exposition, where they should have been.   Darcy is very reserved, and Lizzie, though outspoken, doesn't necessarily wear her heart on her sleeve, so to hear both characters (and every other) spilling their guts and blathering on about every thing, all the while dancing around each other in formal Regency politeness - needless to say, it's not something I have a taste for.  I wanted so very badly for some of it to be internalized or shown through actions and subtle non-verbal cues, which Austen does so very well.  Not to mention that it always sends up a red flag when any character gets to speak uninterrupted for 1/2 a page or more.  That's not realistic in any setting, but especially not in a close-lipped, reserved Regency setting.  Add to this the characters didn't seem to speak like themselves, and it really knocked me out of the story.

There was a shifting back and forth between characters, too, that didn't really work for me.  I wanted Darcy's story and would have preferred to see things only filtered through his eyes, or to have action only happen when he's onstage, and everything else be relayed (much as generally is with Austen, only centering around a female).  This swung back and forth between a multitude of characters, and though I could see there was a good attempt at making the transitions as smooth as possible, it would have been better not to be in everyone's heads.  If you don't know what other characters are thinking, but simply have to rely on conjecture based on their words and actions, there is room left for an element of doubt and tension, which is always good.  Also, even though I could tell effort was made at smoothly transitioning, sometimes the transitions would be out of left field and leave me baffled.  One line would take you days, weeks or months in advance of the present action, only to have the character "remembering" right back to where you just left off, so that the scene could be finished.  It was weird and unnecessary.

So those are two huge negatives, and they make me hesitant to give this a hearty recommend.  And that's where this gets tricky, because there were times when I really, truly did enjoy this and felt the take on the tale and the characters was an interesting one.  I guess in the end, whether you decide to read this or not is really going to come down to personal preference.  If you enjoy a lot of dialogue in which everything is laid out and ground is well covered, and if you like shifting perspectives, then the things that bothered me probably aren't going to bother you, in which case you should pick it up.  If you dislike those things, or they are particular pet peeves, you should probably avoid this.  I find myself somewhere in the middle, liking it but wanting more.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (Bad link in previous deleted comment!)

    Great review! I think overall I enjoyed this book more than you did, but I had reservations with how the plot was handled near the end that really took the wind out of my sails. There was one pivotal moment in the lives of Darcy & Lizzie that she completely skipped over, which really frustrated me, for example. But more often than not, throughout the whole book, I really did enjoy it. I just wish the last couple of chapters could be redone!

    Laura Hartness
    The Calico Critic

  3. I know EXACTLY what you mean!


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