Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mr Darcy, Vampyre

Jane Austen’s regency masterpiece Pride and Prejudice is one of British literature’s most celebrated novels. It has often reimagined in many ways throughout the years. Whether it is a film version based on the novel, a retelling from Darcy’s point-of-view (which the author of this book has done previously with this and other Austen classics), a modernization ala Bridget Jones’ Diary, or a continuation following the weddings of Darcy to Elizabeth and Bingley to Jane, a retelling of the story is not an uncommon occurrence. The latest fad in Austen reimagination seems to be incorporating a mythical element. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (which I want to read because the story of the Dashwood sisters is my favorite Jane Austen novel) are a few examples. Personally I’m waiting for Emma Woodhouse, Witch (Harry Potter reference number 3?) because a love potion is the only way that awful meddling twit Emma would end up with the wonderful Mr. Knightley.

Mr. Darcy, Vampire by Amanda Grange fits into this new type of revisit of Austen’s classic. With his pale skin, haughty personality, and handsome appearance (along with the current pop culture craze with vampires) it is no wonder Grange chose this mythical figure to represent Darcy, perhaps one of Austen’s most loved characters. It tells the story of what happens after Elizabeth and Darcy are married and also attempts to explain why Darcy is truly proud and unwilling to show an attraction to all women, including the darling Miss Elizabeth Bennett, he’s a blood-sucking vampire. Elizabeth and Darcy marry and embark on their wedding tour (honeymoon) to Europe. They visit Paris, the French countryside, the Alps, Venice, and the Italian countryside. Along the way they meet Darcy’s numerous friends and family who seem taken by Elizabeth’s beauty and while they seem to approve of the marriage express surprise that someone could have won over the consummate bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy. There is however two bad run-ins with relatives including the infamous Lady Catherine who hunts the newlyweds down to express her dissatisfaction once again with their relationship and surprisingly Colonel Fitzwilliam who was so pleasant in Pride and Prejudice but now seems to disapprove of Elizabeth and their marriage.

However Elizabeth doesn’t know why they truly disapprove and why Darcy seems so aloof and uninterested. Elizabeth begins to get suspicious around page 200 and then is convinced that Darcy no longer loves her because they have yet to consummate their relationship and he seems to be uncomfortable around her. She confronts him on it and he merely says he has a secret that he can’t tell her, which explains why he cannot go to her in the way she wants (he’s a vampire cough cough). They have a fight and distraught Elizabeth convinces herself to leave and is aided by a friend of Darcy, an Italian Prince, with whom they are staying. By page 230 she begins to think about vampires thanks to a garlic necklace that she is randomly given, even though there are numerous previous clues which her lack of perceptiveness overlooked. On a related note, this book made me realize how truly unperceptive Elizabeth really is, even in Pride and Prejudice. Sure she’s well read and wants to marry for love making her a feminist before that really was acceptable, but she really isn’t very intelligent. She falls in love with Wickham, and falls for his charms despite him being not a very good guy and she refuses Darcy when he does propose to her the first time because she doesn’t realize that she loves him and she is too proud and prejudiced. Anyway, the action then truly heats up as she realizes she is not being helped but kidnapped by the Prince and one of his fellow guests.

I spent the entire novel wondering if and when Elizabeth is going to figure out that Mr. Darcy is a vampire. I wondered how she would take the news. Would she be terrified, excited, or turned on? Would he turn her into a vampire like in the Twilight saga? Would they continue their relationship despite this, Buffy didn’t seem to care having relationships with both Angel and Spike despite being a slayer. Would she run away from him screaming? Or would he merely just devour her and move on, living lonely for all eternity? I’m not sure if most people enjoy knowing something as the reader that the characters do not know, but I do not. It took me out of the story a little bit.

However, the book is very well written. You truly feel what Elizabeth is going through and can imagine the scenery and events that she experiences. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The last fifty pages truly made up for the first 200. When it finally ended I was pleased and surprised with the twist. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give Mr. Darcy, Vamypre by Amanda Grange a 7. If you’re an Austen fan, a vampire fan, or both I recommend reading it. And if you do read it let me know and we can talk about it. I’m dying for someone to discuss it with (no pun intended?)

Friday, November 6, 2009

What I'm Reading Next...

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange.
Set after Pride and Prejudice, the story of Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage but with a macabre twist.

The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho

I will admit it, I'm not ashamed, I'm a slow reader. Unlike most people I've never read a book in a day that was meant for someone older than 10 years old. I could whip through a book but then I wouldn't comprehend anything. But every once in awhile a book will come along that I can finish in a few days. Typically their titles start with Harry Potter and are found in the YA fiction section. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho however fell into that category. I was recommend this book over a year ago but I never took the advice. Then on a recent trip to the book store (which is a common occurrence in my life) I noticed it in the Buy One Get One Half Off section. So picked it up and read in just a day and a half.

Perhaps I finished it so quickly because it's only 163 pages. But that isn't really the case with me. Because despite the fact I read any chance I can get, on an average day I only read about thirty pages (remember I read slow). I think that the reason I finished this book so quickly falls entirely on it's content.

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a relatively poor Spanish shepard living off the land and his meager wages in rural Andulusia. He has decided to become a shepard because what he wants to do most of all in his life is travel. One day he goes to a Gypsy woman to interpret a strange dream he has had. The woman tells him that he must go to the pyramids in Egypt where he will find a great treasure. He brushes her off disappointed in her and his dreams. But he soon after meets a man claiming to be a king. The men knows personal information about Santiago and then tells him about achieving your own "personal legend." Santiago's personal legend is to travel to Egypt and find his treasure. He then gives Santiago a gift to help him on his way. And while Santiago still doubts he decides to give in and sells his sheep, taking a boat to Africa. His first experience in Africa is a bad one, where a young man who claims to want to help him steals all his money. But Santiago rebounds getting a job at a crystal shop earning back all his money and then some. After over a year he continues his journey to Egypt by joining a caravan to an oasis in Egypt. On the trip he meets an Englishman who is in search of his own Personal Legend of becoming an alchemist and finding the Philosophers Stone with the Elixir of Life (but he'll never find it because Dumbledore hid it somewhere very secure after Voldemort tried to find it aka Harry Potter reference no. 2). When he reaches the oasis he finds something he didn't expect. Love. A young woman of the desert named Fatima. He then meets the Alchemist who his English friend was searching for and he teaches Santiago about alchemy as well as becoming one spiritually with the world around him.

I won't give away the ending. You'll have to read for yourself to find out if Santiago achieves his Personal Legend and finds his treasure. But I will say that I definitely recommend the book. It has something for everyone. I like the message that everyone has their own personal legend, something they are set on earth to achieve. The king Santiago meets tells him that many people don't achieve their personal legends. He tells Santiago a person's personal legend is "It's what you always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal legend is... They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it is impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend," (Coehlo, 21). I have, even just recently, been told what I wanted to do with my life was impossible and even worthless. It's nice to read something where achieving your dreams is encouraged. I also really dig the message of spirituality in being one with the world around you. It's not to preachy, but the religious elements in the story are there and for me they add to it's allure.

The Alchemist combines spiritual elements with fantasy effortlessly. Its message of chasing your dreams is something we can all appreciate. A quick read that will stick with you. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho a 9. A definite read.