Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Monica Fairview and THE DARCY COUSINS
Today I welcome guest blogger Monica Fairview, whose latest book, The Darcy Cousins, is the second chapter in the saga of the American (gasp!) branch of the Darcy family. Here she explains how her books, which contain many of the characters introduced in Pride and Prejudice, are Austen-inspired, rather than continuations of that novel. The winners are Susan and aarbaugh. Susan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 22 with your snail mail address so you can receive your book.
Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of THE DARCY COUSINS which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Monica will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to US and Canada addresses only.
Now that the housekeeping is done, we can get down to the fun. Great to have you here, Monica!
It’s a pleasure to be here on your blog, Linda, especially since it gives me a chance to answer a question dear to my heart, which is: why I chose to continue Pride and Prejudice. I’ll have to qualify the question, though, because I think of The Other Mr Darcy and The Darcy Cousins as Austen-inspired or Austenesques rather than continuations.
I’d like to start with one of Jane Austen’s well-known quotations: “Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked,” she says in a letter to her niece. To put the quotation in its context, she’s saying this as a response to criticism of her work for not portraying virtuous heroines. Despite the fact that she’s often presented as a very traditional writer (an image fostered by the Victorians, no less!), the fact is that Jane Austen wrote against the literature of her day. She deliberately went against the Gothic literature which was most popular at that time, and against the kind of heroines that Richardson presented as the model for what a heroine should be.
In fact one of Jane Austen’s most original contributions (and you have to constantly remind yourself of this) was that she was one of the first novelists to create realistic women characters, hardly an easy task since she had to invent the wheel. Consequently, she was able to create some of the most memorable female characters. Think of the range of women characters in just one novel , whether it’s Lydia, Lady Catherine, Charlotte, Mrs Bennet, Jane, or Mary, to name just the main ones. In fact, Pride and Prejudice stands out from the rest of Jane Austen’s novels because of the sheer variety of her portrayals.
Yet there are two characters in the novel that have always been a puzzle for me. The first is Caroline Bingley, who is the object of Elizabeth’s scorn, but is clearly agreeable to Mr Darcy. Clearly Darcy spends a great deal of time in her company, and this cannot simply be explained by the fact that she follows around with her brother. It is clear at the beginning of the novel that Darcy respects her – he dances with her, agrees initially with her assessment of Meryton, enlists her aid to keep Bingley away from Jane, and spends time with her in London. Elizabeth realizes on more than one occasion that she was mistaken in her perception of Caroline. For example, after talking to Colonel Fitzwilliam, she realizes that Darcy was the one who kept Bingley away from Jane:
“That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr Bingley and Jane she had never doubted: but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principle design and arrangement of them. ... he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered and still continued to suffer.”
The information she receives from the colonel shifts the blame away from Miss Bingley and is one of the reasons she rejects Darcy’s proposal so forcefully.
Later in the novel, Darcy has fallen in love with Elizabeth, but he still invites Caroline and her sister to stay with him and Georgiana in Pemberley. Clearly, he is quite comfortable spending time in her company. Either Mr Darcy has bad taste in his friends, or Elizabeth’s view of Caroline Bingley has been skewed throughout. In fact, Elizabeth acknowledges later that Caroline’s behaviour “had originated in jealousy.” It seemed as if Caroline’s character was subjected to constant revisions, providing an example of Elizabeth’s tendency to prejudge others. The real Caroline – the one that emerges between the lines, the one that is jealous -- intrigued me, and I felt compelled to look at her more closely and to tell her story, which is why I wrote The Other Mr Darcy.
In a very different way, Georgiana is also a puzzle. She is the closest Jane Austen comes in Pride and Prejudice to creating a “picture of perfection.” Like Caroline, she is pitted against Elizabeth, who decides that she must be a haughty disagreeable kind of person because she is presented as being very “accomplished”. Elizabeth’s prejudice against her, like her prejudice against Caroline, is proven to be mistaken. She is astonished to find that Georgiana is very sweet, especially when Georgiana is very nice to her.
In the case of Georgiana, I saw a lonely orphan with a disastrous experience in love at a tender age. Is Georgiana capable of overcoming her past and learning to love?
The Darcy Cousins is my response to the question. What do you think? What are some of the obstacles?
THE DARCY COUSINS BY MONICA FAIRVIEW—IN STORES APRIL 2010
A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…
Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!
And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Literature professor Monica Fairview loves teaching students the joys of reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was write. The author of The Other Mr. Darcy and An Improper Suitor, the American-born Ms. Fairview currently resides in London. For more information, please visit www.monicafairview.com.