It took Amanda Grange a long time to reach the sixth of Austen’s heroes for her series of retellings (and took us an even longer time to write this review. We are a bad Editrix and we feel bad). We are pleased to report that it was been worth the wait. In Henry Tilney’s Diary, our favorite Austen hero gets his turn in the sun, and proves to be as delightful as we had hoped. Witty, intelligent, a loving son and brother, all of Mr. Tilney’s best assets (and they are legion) are shown to full advantage in this enjoyable retelling of Northanger Abbey, done with Ms. Grange’s usual scrupulous attention to the original and an extra dash of Tilneyish wit and style. And doesn’t that make everything better?
Now that the (around here, rather sodden) Halloween costumes have been put away and everyone is lying around dazed in a sugar-rush letdown, we thought we would extend the celebrations a bit. Amanda Grange has kindly agreed to answer some questions about her latest book, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, a Jane Austen-horrid novel mashup that was written by someone who actually knows and likes Jane Austen’s novels. (Read our review of the book.) Also, find out how to enter to win a copy of the book!
When Lady Catherine de Bourgh tells Elizabeth Bennet that Mr. Darcy comes from an ancient family…well, she isn’t just being a snob.
The beginning of the newlywed Darcys’ life together, in which Mr. Darcy takes advantage of the Peace of Amiens to show his wife continental Europe, should be a time of unalloyed happiness for Elizabeth Darcy–after all, if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad–but her joy in her marriage and her love for her husband are dimmed by worry. Why did she surprise a look of pure torment on Darcy’s face only a few hours after their wedding? Why does he not consummate their marriage, despite the obvious passion that they share? And why is Elizabeth dreaming of events that occurred over a hundred years previously–and of a mysterious, compelling gentleman who is not her husband? The mystery builds to a thrilling, chilling climax and a completely satisfying ending. There is plenty of romance and a few dangerously tender moments between the newlyweds. (Let’s face it, the whole bloodsucking thing is not a metaphor for playing whist, know what we mean?)
However, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is more than just the simple addition of vampire lore to P&P; instead, Amanda Grange has crafted a clever homage to the Gothic novels that Jane Austen so enjoyed. As in all of Ms. Grange’s Austen-inspired novels, she has clearly done her homework, and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre most strongly echoes Ann Radcliffe’s tales of psychological horror, incorporating all the elements that knowledgeable fans of the Gothic expect: a trip through the roughest and most picturesque parts of the Continent; loving descriptions of the scenery (though fortunately, unlike Radcliffe, they don’t go on for page after tiresome page, and there is no doggerel poetry further slowing things down); mysterious castles with oddly-behaving servants; banditti, mercenaries, and fearful, violent villagers; an accident that, Elizabeth is told, portends death; a story of another young lady just like Lizzy who arrived under similar circumstances and met a bad end; and there even is a “black veil” moment, when our heroine sees something so horrid she has no choice but to swoon. The reader is not immediately enlightened to the horror, though we can guess it; and, again fortunately unlike Radcliffe, Ms. Grange does not keep us hanging until the end of the book and then come up with a lame afterthought to close the loop. We also felt echoes of Dracula, Polidori’s seminal story “The Vampyre,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and even a smidgen of Harry Potter.
The book is an homage, not a parody, but there is a deep-lurking humor that recognizes the fun in Gothic novels, a tone set by the dedication (we won’t give it away, as we were not expecting it, and it made us laugh for a solid minute), and one that seems to us peculiarly English, and peculiarly in the style of Jane Austen’s humor. Just because Jane parodied The Mysteries of Udolpho and other horrid novels in Northanger Abbey doesn’t mean she didn’t like horrid novels. Like Henry Tilney, Jane likely read them in two days, her hair standing on end the whole time, and afterwards laughed at herself for falling for it; she could not have written such an affectionate parody in Northanger Abbey otherwise. Make no mistake: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is absolutely not the kind of thing that Jane Austen wrote, but it certainly is the kind of thing she read.
Unlike recent Austen/monster “mashups,” nothing is overdone, there is not as much angst as one might expect, and there are no gross-outs. This is an Austen-inspired scary story for Janeites, by a Janeite, done with affection and delivered with a very subtle British wink, and completely suitable for a 21st-century audience. Our inner Catherine Morland thought it was tremendous fun, and knows not to take it too seriously; like the heroine of a horrid novel just kidnapped by three villains in horsemen’s great coats, hang on and enjoy the ride.
We are giving away a copy of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre to two lucky AustenBlog readers, courtesy of Sourcebooks. We’re trying something different this time; just respond in the comments (be sure to leave a working e-mail address; it won’t be seen by anyone but us) and we’ll use the Random Integer Generator to choose the numbers of the winners. If you want to comment but not be entered in the giveaway, just mention it in your comment. Comment as many times as you like, but only the first comment in the thread will be counted toward your entry. Also, the contest is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. Sorry! ETA: Contest ends Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10 p.m. ET. ETA the Second: If your comment gets stuck in the spam filter, we’ll unstick it, don’t worry!
We will have a review of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre next week and a giveaway as well. In the meantime, author Amanda Grange has shared an exclusive excerpt from the novel with AustenBlog readers. Enjoy!
When they were about half way to France, Darcy went below to make sure that the horses were comfortable and not too distressed by the voyage, and to give instructions for their disembarkation when they should land. Elizabeth remained on deck, watching the other ships and from time to time seeing nothing but the ocean as the seas filled and emptied around her.
It was during one of these lulls that she saw a solitary sail on the horizon. She watched it lazily, but as it drew nearer she became aware of a change in the atmosphere and she felt a tension amongst the sailors. They began to look up from their work and to shade their eyes with their hands, turning in the direction of the vessel.
‘What is it?’ asked Elizabeth. ‘Is it a French vessel?’
‘It’s trouble,’ said the mate.
‘Aye,’ said one of the sailors. ‘Privateers. Pirates.’
How did Colonel Brandon ever get such a bad rap? Is it the flannel waistcoat? Is it that a man of five and thirty can never hope to feel deep affection? Granted he’s not a hawt and sexay beast like Willoughby, but then Colonel Brandon wouldn’t dump a woman at a ball in front of half of London, either (not to mention some of Willoughby’s other less-than-stellar behavior). And yet more than one critic has suggested that Marianne Brandon would not have the completely happy and satisfying marriage that she would have had with Willoughby. We beg to differ, and apparently so does Amanda Grange, because the hero of Colonel Brandon’s Diary has more tragedy and romance in his life than any three or four bodice-ripping Regency rakes. Elopements! Duels! Adultery! Love children! This is Jane Austen? the skeptic might ask; we reply, it sure is! It’s all in Sense and Sensibility, cunningly hidden in the backstory, but Amanda Grange has brought this dramatic tale to full life in the best book yet in her series of heroes’ diaries.
Amanda Grange is the author of a series of retellings of Jane Austen’s novels written from the hero’s point of view: (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary, and Colonel Brandon’s Diary, and she is at work on Henry Tilney’s Diary. Ms. Grange kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the readers of AustenBlog.
Darcy’s Diary was the first book in your series of Jane Austen hero diaries, but it was not your first novel. Tell us about your previous novels.
My previous novels are all historical romances, usually set in the Regency period although some of them are Edwardian. If anyone wants to try them, Lord Deverill’s Secret and Harstairs House are both available in paperback in the US. 🙂 They involve an adventure as well as a romance and they always have a happy ending!
What gave you the idea to start writing Darcy’s Diary?
I was rereading Pride and Prejudice and I thought, This is such a modern novel, it’s no wonder it’s still popular 200 years after Jane Austen wrote it. It has a fast pace, lots of dialogue, short chapters and it has the best – and most often quoted – opening sentence in the English language. The only thing it doesn’t have, which a novel written today would have, is a number of sections from the hero’s point of view. And then I thought, It’s such a strong novel that it would make a compelling book even if it was told entirely from the hero’s point of view, because he isn’t a cipher as some romantic heroes are, he’s a real person who has a life-changing journey to make before he can reach his happy ending.
These thoughts coincided with a calendar I’d been making for the events in Pride and Prejudice, as I’d been wondering when it was set, and because I was looking at the dates whilst I was thinking about Darcy’s side of the story, the idea of writing Darcy’s Diary popped into my head.