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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dear Jane — a series review in the style of a letter to Austen, from Claudine

This piece is the first of two from Claudine this Austen in August (and it's her first time posting here in AIA, so give her a big Austen welcome!). And it's a rather clever approach, I think: she's reviewing the three books in Stanley Michael Hurd's Darcy's Tale series in the form of a letter to Austen. 
Check it out below, and then keep an eye out for a second post from Claudine to pop up later in AIA!

Dear Jane Austen,

As I closed the final pages of Stanley Hurd’s three book series, titled ” Darcy’s Tale”, I felt compelled to write to you to share the joys I experienced as I read Mr. Hurd’s series. I know that during your lifetime, you said you didn’t write about events that you yourself didn’t experience, such as conversations that occurred between two men alone in a room. Now, please don’t think I am complaining about this decision of yours, because you must know I have most ardently admired and loved your book “Pride and Prejudice” for the past 16 years. In my heart and mind, it has been, my most constant companion... But here I digress!

I wanted you to know that Mr. Hurd has carefully constructed a text so brilliant and sparkling... just like your very own P&P, (I hope you don’t mind my beloved abbreviation). Where his diverges from yours is in his ability to weave the male psych into your story, as he offers his readers new perspectives and experiences that are told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. I know other authors have attempted to write similar stories from Darcy’s POV, and some of them are quite good. Yet, in my opinion, after reading all types of JAFF, (another abbreviation I hope you don’t mind!) Mr. Hurd has created a masterpiece in his retelling, due to his careful attention to historical accuracies, his original plot lines for Darcy and friends, and his precise construction of the English language, which closely resembles your own clear and sparse prose.

I have to confess, I put off reading this series for one reason; it’s written by a male writer. I just didn’t believe I’d enjoy P&P from a male perspective. Aren’t only those female hearts able to savor and swoon at a beautifully written romantic story, let alone write one themselves? Yet, here, I believe, I am pleased to admit how wrong I was. Mr. Hurd’s writing is romantic, realistic, well-paced, and full of charming details, which includes his creation of beloved new characters who sweep their readers back into 1799 Regency England, where we cross numerous English countrysides, spending blissful hours with an extraordinary cast of friends and family.

Of course, while this is going on, we have front row seats as we witness Mr. Darcy’s utter despair and suffering over the loss of Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Naturally, this is where the story was really exceptional for me. I developed such insights into Darcy’s inner struggles, along with his theories and beliefs about the changing world. I came to develop an even deeper respect for his sense of honor and duty, as he genuinely approached this situation in such a scholarly manner, seeking out thoughts and views from respected friends and family members to help him understand his struggles and reconcile his heart with his mind, during a time when emotions weren’t regarded or understood as they are today within our modern world.

Now Jane, please understand that I don’t mean to make this sound like boring, heady writing that is too cerebral to enjoy... That’s certainly not the case here! Mr. Hurd gives us our romance and offers us sweet memories for our dear couple in new and pleasurable ways. We also come to understand more about his struggles with Wickham, as we watch Darcy settle the Wickham/Lydia affair with strength of character and gorgeous manliness. Oh, how he struggles to keep Wickham alive under such overbearing struggles... This is definitely a favorite part of the story for me.

I also adored Darcy’s relationship with his aunt, Lady Andover. Their conversations about love, duty and the desires of the heart made me reflect a bit about my own life. “Overmastering passions overmaster us,” the lady replied, a hint of sadness in her tone. “That’s how you know what they are. There is no fighting them.” These are words I will reflect upon for a long time.

I also loved Darcy’s relationships with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Bingley. Both men enjoyed such intimate and close relationships with Darcy. I treasured their conversations, especially as we come to hear more about Bingley’s own personal crisis, as he tries to find happiness without the coy Jane Bennett. He’s not overly sad or weepy, but we feel his anguish as he realizes how much Jane meant to him and how empty his life feels without the possibility of her in it with him.

The new character I must also mention to you is a Mr. Vincent Pender, who is a former professor from Darcy’s Oxford days, and who is held in the highest regard for his great philosophical mind. Darcy travels to speak with Pender , during his struggles regarding his feelings for Elizabeth. Through his wisdom and his abilities to truly discern Darcy’s true concerns, Pender offers some of the most unusual and interesting advice for Darcy.

After Darcy voices his concerns about introducing the Bennet bloodlines into the Darcy bloodlines, Pender compares animal breeding with human genetics, in an attempt to help Darcy understand that marrying Elizabeth doesn’t warrant much concern about their future offsprings, when compared to Darcy’s preconceived notions about superior breeding. This gives us quite a bit of insight into how men of Darcy’s station really believed in the strength of their “inherited” traits and how much of their culture was reinforced through their ideas about “superior” birth and breeding, (which we know Aunt Catherine constantly reinforces throughout the story.)

Once their discussion diverges into what happens when dogs are “Bred too closely to their own pedigree,” we know the discussion has really turned into some fascinating reflections about how people who only stay confined to other people within their own stations; thus inevitably contributing to their own offspring’s weakened states. What a concept!

“One breeds from out of the line to reintroduce strength. It is the most common way to improve the breed.... “ Darcy’s voice trailed off. So Elizabeth is really the strength needed to continue the strength of the Darcy legacy! Touché!

On closing Jane, I wish to say to you that your decision to leave the male perspective of P&P to a male only raises my esteem in you, because now, 200 years later, we have this masterful series to read alongside your timeless classic. “Capital, capital!” I must say to you. I can never thank you enough for writing P&P and to Mr. Hurd for writing his series!

Yours truly,
Claudine DiMuzio

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  1. I love this, Claudine! I keep hearing wonderful things about this trilogy and you've added to that. Creative review, thanks!

  2. After I read Stan's series, I became compelled to write him a review that was written in the style of a letter to Jane Austen herself. This series is so meticulously crafted, and included such heartfelt and tenderly written moments, that I had to wonder was Darcy trying to not only find Elizabeth, but I think also looking to find himself. I cannot recommend this series strongly enough to any potential readers!

  3. I love your review written as a letter to Jane herself. My husband read this series and said how he could really relate to this Darcy. He had attempted a few other JAFF (Darcy POV's) and said that's not how a male thinks. It is on my TBR and I am looking forward to reading it.


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