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Jane Austen Adaptations: Behind the Scenes

When the final credits roll on an Austen film, whether you’ve loved it or not, it’s often fun to find out more. What were relationships like on and off the set? Where did they film these great houses? Who designed the costumes? Was the final product true to the script? Were there any extra scenes that were cut?

Fortunately for us, many of the movies do have additional information available.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) boasts a “Making Of” feature on the newest DVD version and the book The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin answers just about any question interested fans might have.

Sense and Sensibility won Emma Thompson an Oscar for best screenplay when it was released in 1995. During the filming of the movie, Thompson kept a detailed diary of life on and off the set. Both the script and the diary are available in individual and combined formats.

Also produced in 1995, Persuasion’s script by Nick Dear was printed in book format and is occasionally available from used book sellers. That year’s other Austen offering, Clueless, is an updated version of Emma, set in California. The special edition DVD boasts cast interviews and “making of” information.

Scripts were also published of both Douglas McGrath’s 1996 script for the Gwyneth Patrow version of Emma , and for Andrew Davies’s version for TV. That script, along with cast and behind the scenes information was published as The Making of Jane Austen’s Emma by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin. Though out of print, it can occasionally be found in used book stores and on Ebay.

newtvloclgjpgv1417010708.jpegThe 1999 big screen version of Mansfield Park, written and directed by Patricia Rozema, garnered as much negative as positive publicity. Supposedly based on Austen’s early writings and diaries as well as the source novel, it has certainly provoked ample discussion. A script was issued for this production also, and should still be obtainable.

Lastly, if you feel like visiting some of the locations from these various productions, the TV and Film Locations Guide is your essential handbook!

The Making of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s TV and Film Locations Guide and a variety of DVDs and soundtracks are currently available from the Jane Austen Giftshop.

Laura Boyle is a collector of Jane Austen films and film memorabilia. She also runs Austentation, a company that specializes in custom made Regency Accessories.

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Captain Wentworth’s Diary, by Amanda Grange: A Review


Captain Wentworth’s Diary
by Amanda Grange

When one feels that one’s support of Jane Austen paraliterature is a hopeless business as the genre has become a quagmire of revolting twaddle written by people who think Jane Austen was a sweet little spinster penning pretty romances, it is a real relief to be reminded why we still bother. There are some gems to be found in the sludge, Gentle Readers, and Amanda Grange’s previous two books, (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary, are among them. We are pleased to relate that her latest offering, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, does not disappoint.

The point of these ‘hero’s point of view’ tales is to present backstory, to show the parallel to the heroine’s journey. In this retelling of Persuasion we are given a real treat: the whole story of the summer of the Year Six, when Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love. Young Wentworth is as full of “intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy” as Jane Austen described him; fresh from his heroics at St. Domingo, he rolls into Somerset ready to dance and flirt with every pretty girl. The last thing he expects is to fall in love–especially not with the quiet Anne; and when he does, and offers for her, and is accepted, the very last thing he expects is for her to break their engagement. He leaves Somerset, injured and angry, to make his fortune. Eight years later, Napoleon has been confined on Elba, and the Royal Navy comes home; and of all the great houses in England to lease, his brother-in-law chooses Kellynch, the scene of that mortifying romance. Wentworth arrives, fresh from the painful scene of helping his friend Benwick cope with his fiancee’s death, still resentful at his own rejection, and convinced that Anne Elliot’s power with him was gone forever. The stage is set, and the game is on.

When we read Persuasion, customarily we become angry on Anne’s behalf when Wentworth first appears; angry at his rudeness, at saying to the pretty young Musgrove girls that Anne was so altered he would not have known her. He had to know it would be repeated to her; he had to know how those words could hurt; how could a man once so in love say such a thing? He ought not, he does not! But Ms. Grange is gentle with her hero; we are shown his shock at first seeing Anne, beaten down by eight years of disappointment and regret, and mistaking her for a nursery-maid; at being so distracted by this change, and the emotions it engenders in himself, that he thoughtlessly utters the hurtful words. Instead of harboring our own resentment (or yelling salty naval expletives aloud, as is our custom), we found ourself, much to our astonishment, in sympathy with him.

Another interesting device is a paralleling of Anne and Wentworth’s stories. For instance, we know of Anne’s pain when Mrs. Croft talks of her brother being married; Anne thinks she means Frederick, when she means the eldest brother, Edward. In this story, the Crofts tell Wentworth that Miss Elliot is still very handsome, and her sister is married to Charles Musgrove. Wentworth, knowing the propriety of such a match for Anne, assumes she is Mrs. Charles rather than Mary, and experiences the same pain and same relief as Anne when he discovers his mistake.

The Year Six episode takes the first third of the novel, so some elements of the main story were, in our opinion, a bit more rushed than we would like; but we are a devoted Persuasionite and can never get enough of these characters. There certainly is satisfaction to be had: in following Wentworth’s change of heart as he acknowledges his true feelings; his self-reproach as he realizes his thoughtless flirtation with Louisa Musgrove could have serious consequences; his jealousy of Mr. Elliot and fear that he is too late to win Anne at last; thoughts streaming in bursts and gasps of emotion as he listens to a conversation and writes a letter; and a lovely, long talk on a walk from the White Hart to Camden Place, “spirits dancing in private rapture.” Like the other books in Ms. Grange’s series, scrupulous attention is paid to the original, even while interpreting what is not explicitly shown, and some well-known scenes are fleshed out while others are condensed, nicely complementing the original.

Anne Elliot is Jane Austen’s most mature heroine, and unlike her sister heroines has experienced her journey of self-knowledge prior to the opening of the novel. It is Wentworth who has the real journey in Persuasion, and in Captain Wentworth’s Diary we take that journey with him, from brash young officer to a mature man, shaped by experience and loss but still able to seize an opportunity when he can listen no longer in silence, and although we know the ending, we cheer when hope returns.

Captain Wentworth’s Diary is available direct from the publisher or from Amazon.co.uk; it will be published in North America by Berkeley next year.

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (30 Jun 2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0709082811
Price: £18.99

Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and The
Cult of Da Man
and has a childlike fascination with big wooden ships and the men who sail
them. Her newest book, The Jane Austen Handbook is now available.

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Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Our affection for the Rev. Mr. Henry Tilney is well-documented, but we must confess to an occasional fling with Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey (and have been known to sit adoringly at Captain Wentworth’s knee whilst he tells sea-stories, but that is neither here nor there). Conceive our delight, then, when we were informed that Amanda Grange has followed up Darcy’s Diary with Mr. Knightley’s Diary. Such anticipation for Austen paraliterature titles has been dashed in the past, but we are happy to report that in this case, our anticipation was not excited in vain.

The squire of Donwell Abbey is fond of his country life: looking after his estate with the assistance of the redoubtable William Larkins, attending his whist club, dining at every house in the neighborhood, teaching his nephews to ride their first pony; and his fondest enjoyment is visiting his neighbor Mr. Woodhouse and his daughter, Emma. For a crusty old bachelor, Mr. Knightley spends an awful lot of time thinking about marriage, and an awful lot of time thinking about Miss Woodhouse. With so many concerns to distract him, a generous public must forgive that it takes him half the book (and the intercession of a dispassionate friend) to realize that this is not a coincidence.

Fortunately Ms. Grange does not indulge in any creepy suggestions of Knightley having fallen in love with Emma as a girl; as Jane Austen tells us, “Mr. Knightley had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other.” Mr. Knightley had loved Emma all of her life, certainly, and cared about her welfare, but had no suspicion that his heart harbored anything more serious towards her until he witnessed her flirtation with Frank Churchill. Emma has a journey, without a doubt; but Mr. Knightley, despite his charms and perfections, has one as well, and it is not forgotten in this retelling.

Like all Austen heroes before him, Mr. Knightley is brought low and humbled by his affection for his heroine; is there a sillier object in nature than a man just learning his heart? Or anything more thrilling?

“I think it an excellent plan,” she said gravely. “We must all have donkeys. I am sure Miss Bates would enjoy the experience, and Mrs Goddard would look very well in the saddle — if, indeed, donkeys wear saddles. I mean to purchase a donkey this afternoon, and I hope I may not disgrace you by my seat when you walk next to me, Mr. K.”

 

“Oh, Emma!” I said. “Don’t…” marry Churchill, marry me, I was going to say. The words were on the tip of my tongue…

*swoons in fever of fangirl delight*

There is that strange sense of deja vu that come from reading the sort of book that tells a well-known story from a different perspective. The anticipation of certain events, indeed, makes it that much more enjoyable, and that the author has clearly studied the original carefully and not employed out of place embellishments sharpens the reader’s pleasure. If we found the original unsatisfactory, why in the name of Jane would we be reading paraliterature about it? Ms. Grange manages the tricky balancing act of satisfying the reader and remaining respectful of Jane Austen’s original at the same time, and like Miss Woodhouse herself, we are given the privilege of falling for Mr. Knightley all over again.

She teases me and bedevils me, she exasperates and infuriates me, but what would I do without Emma?

Spoken like a man in love!

Buy online at our Jane Austen Giftshop! Only £7.99! Click here.

Price: £18.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (31 Aug 2006)
ISBN-10: 0709081340
ISBN-13: 978-0709081340

As for the cover portrait, author Amanda Grange has this to say, “Choosing the portraits is an interesting experience. (Incidentally this one is a portrait of Robert Southey,(1774-1843) who was an English poet.) I’ve never come across a portrait that looks exactly like my idea of Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley, probably because they were fictional characters who were never painted! But choosing from the available portraits that are from the right period, show a man of the right age (a lot are of much older men), show him alone (a lot show men with their families) and show him without anything odd in the background – odd in the context of my books, for example an elephant – limits the choice substantially. However, I’m very pleased with this one.

Some of my friends think he looks miserable, some of them think he looks pensive, some of them think he has a look of Jeremy Northam (no bad thing) and I think he looks as though he’s just got back from Box Hill. To me, his expression is just right for when Mr Knightley thinks that Emma is in love with Frank Churchill.”

Learn more about Amanda and her novels (including Darcy’s Diary and the upcoming Capt. Wentworth’s Diary) visiting her website, http://www.amandagrange.com/

Margaret C. Sullivan is the Editrix of AustenBlog.com and the author of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, to be published in May 2007 by Quirk Books. She has always wondered what William Larkins made of Mrs. Knightley. Click here for a sneak peek inside her new book!

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Mr Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

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.

List Price: £7.99
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (21 Aug 2009)
ISBN-10: 140223998X
ISBN-13: 978-1402239984


Margaret C. Sullivan is the Editrix of AustenBlog and the author of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World. She read Mr. Darcy, Vampyre in two days, her hair standing on end the whole time.

Read an excerpt from the novel, here

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Sourcebooks Landmark presents A Darcy Christmas, a collection of three Christmas-themed short stories set in the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The contributing authors are the talented Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart.

Story 3 – A Darcy Christmas
by Sharon Lathan

While Sharon Lathan’s novella is the concluding story of the book, I decided to read her A Darcy Christmas first. I recently finished her full-length novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, so I still had her voice in my head, so to speak. I was delighted to find that this short story felt almost like a sequel to her third book in The Darcy Saga, although I’m sure that wasn’t necessarily the intent.

A Darcy Christmas is a window into many holiday seasons over the life of the Darcy family. It begins the Christmas before Darcy weds Elizabeth and ends many years later when they have been married for 23 years. Each chapter shares moments from a particular Advent season, revisiting the characters introduced to us by Jane Austen and meeting new friends and family members as well.

This novella was sweet, innocent and enjoyable, and I loved seeing how the Darcy family grew and matured over the years. Not every year was full of mirth, and I was particularly moved in one chapter when Elizabeth is mourning the loss of a loved one. I may re-read that very chapter someday if I have the misfortune to mourn as she did. It was very touching and could bring comfort in that type of sorrow.

As is true for the other two novellas in this collection, Sharon Lathan’s A Darcy Christmas is an enjoyable composition. It matches the sentiments of the other two authors and brings a warm glow to the heart.

Story 2 – Christmas Present
by Amanda Grange

Second in my reading was Christmas Present by Amanda Grange. Although she has written over a dozen books, many of which are on my “To Be Read” list, I’ve never actually gotten around to reading her work. So this short story is my hors d’oeuvre into her banquet of literary offerings.

Christmas Present’s opening line pays homage to Jane Austen’s opening line of Pride and Prejudice, which I found very amusing. The events of her story occur in the months after the marriages of Elizabeth and Jane, both of whom are becoming mothers for the first time. As we share the Christmas season with Grange’s characters, we have an opportunity to visit with many of the individuals from the original novel, even bringing them all into one home for a time.

Christmas Present is very quiet and understated, but it’s an enjoyable time with Austen’s characters. Her tone is very evocative of Jane Austen’s style, and the holiday traditions presented hold true to the era and were a bit of an education for me. Grange introduces a new character who provides a bit of intrigue, and I hope she utilizes this character and their romantic possibilities in the future.

Of course, a delightful gift is bestowed at the conclusion of the tale. Ms. Grange’s work is also a gift, a small stocking-stuffer to enjoy before I open the larger gifts of her full-length novels.

Story 1 – Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol
by Carolyn Eberhart

Third in my reading was Carolyn Eberhart’s Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol. I saved this for the end due to my love of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I hoped the best had been saved for last. I was not in the least bit disappointed. In fact, Eberhart’s novella exceeded my expectations. She truly was successful in merging the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ Carol. Like Dickens’ work, this Carol brings with it bitterness and regret, as well as enlightenment and reformation. There are cameos that were a delight, giving an even bigger nod to Dickens.

I hesitate to give more details, as I don’t want to spoil any of the delicious moments for you. Suffice it to say, all those who call themselves fans of Jane Austen and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol should read this story.

This small anthology A Darcy Christmas as a whole would be an excellent choice of reading for your holiday season. If I had the opportunity, I would read it on a snowy weekend, curled up in my favorite chair with a mug of hot chocolate. Like that soothing drink, the three tales of A Darcy Christmas are short, sweet and warm the heart. I hope they do the same for yours as well.

RRP: £9.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (30 Nov 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402243391


Laura Hartness is the author of The Calico Critic, a review blog with a little bit of this and that. Presented in the low-key calico style since October 2009.

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Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange

Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange

When one feels that one’s support of Jane Austen paraliterature is a hopeless business as the genre has become a quagmire of revolting twaddle written by people who think Jane Austen was a sweet little spinster penning pretty romances, it is a real relief to be reminded why we still bother. There are some gems to be found in the sludge, Gentle Readers, and Amanda Grange’s previous two books, (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary, are among them. We are pleased to relate that her latest offering, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, does not disappoint.

The point of these hero’s point of view tales is to present backstory, to show the parallel to the heroine’s journey. In this retelling of Persuasion we are given a real treat: the whole story of the summer of the Year Six, when Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love. Young Wentworth is as full of “intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy” as Jane Austen described him; fresh from his heroics at St. Domingo, he rolls into Somerset ready to dance and flirt with every pretty girl. The last thing he expects is to fall in love–especially not with the quiet Anne; and when he does, and offers for her, and is accepted, the very last thing he expects is for her to break their engagement. He leaves Somerset, injured and angry, to make his fortune. Eight years later, Napoleon has been confined on Elba, and the Royal Navy comes home; and of all the great houses in England to lease, his brother-in-law chooses Kellynch, the scene of that mortifying romance. Wentworth arrives, fresh from the painful scene of helping his friend Benwick cope with his fiancee’s death, still resentful at his own rejection, and convinced that Anne Elliot’s power with him was gone forever. The stage is set, and the game is on.

When we read Persuasion, customarily we become angry on Anne’s behalf when Wentworth first appears; angry at his rudeness, at saying to the pretty young Musgrove girls that Anne was so altered he would not have known her. He had to know it would be repeated to her; he had to know how those words could hurt; how could a man once so in love say such a thing? He ought not, he does not! But Ms. Grange is gentle with her hero; we are shown his shock at first seeing Anne, beaten down by eight years of disappointment and regret, and mistaking her for a nursery-maid; at being so distracted by this change, and the emotions it engenders in himself, that he thoughtlessly utters the hurtful words. Instead of harboring our own resentment (or yelling salty naval expletives aloud, as is our custom), we found ourself, much to our astonishment, in sympathy with him.

Another interesting device is a paralleling of Anne and Wentworth’s stories. For instance, we know of Anne’s pain when Mrs. Croft talks of her brother being married; Anne thinks she means Frederick, when she means the eldest brother, Edward. In this story, the Crofts tell Wentworth that Miss Elliot is still very handsome, and her sister is married to Charles Musgrove. Wentworth, knowing the propriety of such a match for Anne, assumes she is Mrs. Charles rather than Mary, and experiences the same pain and same relief as Anne when he discovers his mistake.

The Year Six episode takes the first third of the novel, so some elements of the main story were, in our opinion, a bit more rushed than we would like; but we are a devoted Persuasionite and can never get enough of these characters. There certainly is satisfaction to be had: in following Wentworth’s change of heart as he acknowledges his true feelings; his self-reproach as he realizes his thoughtless flirtation with Louisa Musgrove could have serious consequences; his jealousy of Mr. Elliot and fear that he is too late to win Anne at last; thoughts streaming in bursts and gasps of emotion as he listens to a conversation and writes a letter; and a lovely, long talk on a walk from the White Hart to Camden-place, “spirits dancing in private rapture.” Like the other books in Ms. Grange’s series, scrupulous attention is paid to the original, even while interpreting what is not explicitly shown, and some well-known scenes are fleshed out while others are condensed, nicely complementing the original.

Anne Elliot is Jane Austen’s most mature heroine, and unlike her sister heroines has experienced her journey of self-knowledge prior to the opening of the novel. It is Wentworth who has the real journey in Persuasion, and in Captain Wentworth’s Diary we take that journey with him, from brash young officer to a mature man, shaped by experience and loss but still able to seize an opportunity when he can listen no longer in silence, and although we know the ending, we cheer when hope returns.

(If you like the sound of Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange, you might also enjoy Mr Darcy’s Diary, which is available direct from our giftshop here for just £9.99!

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (30 Jun 2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0709082811
Price: £18.99

Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and The Cult of Da Man and has a childlike fascination with big wooden ships and the men who sail them. Her newest book, The Jane Austen Handbook is now available.

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Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange

Wickham’s Diary
by Amanda Grange

George Wickham is a bad man. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. He is vain, self-centered, and doesn’t seem to care how many lives he destroys as he seeks personal gain. Why would we want to read his innermost thoughts? At least, that’s what we thought when we first heard about Amanda Grange’s latest production, Wickham’s Diary.

We are on record as being a big fan of Grange’s hero diaries, but we actually want to know what they are thinking. But Wickham? Really? We don’t want him to be redeemed or made sympathetic. He is a bad man.

Fortunately, Amanda Grange resists any temptation to make Wickham terribly sympathetic. He is spoiled, vain, selfish, and hedonistic, just as he ought; but he also is rather amusing, and really, how did he go from being Fitzwilliam Darcy’s “companion of my youth” to someone seeking complete revenge on him, as well as monetary gain, by cutting up poor Georgiana Darcy’s peace? We were hesitant, but this one had us by the second page, buckled up for a bumpy ride.

We meet Wickham (and Darcy) first at age 12. Wickham is not yet the bad man he will become, but he’s well on his way: spoiled by his flighty, extravagant mother, who manipulates her besotted husband, and given by her poor principles–rather than preparing and encouraging her son to make his way in the world, she teaches him to take advantage of the good nature of others. The Darcys, father and son, are willing and happy to give young George Wickham preference and advantages. At first George is pleased to imagine himself incumbent of the living Mr. Darcy Sr. designs for him, where at least he might live as a gentleman while he looks for an obliging heiress to marry: perhaps Darcy’s cousin Anne, in whom Darcy has no interest.

However, Wickham has not the character or training to take advantage of his opportunities, instead resenting the good fortune of his old friend’s birth and falling into dissipated, abandoned ways. He gets by on his charm; the only person immune to it is, of course, Darcy (though there is one scene in which Darcy’s behavior to Wickham absolutely wanted to make us hug Darcy, a novel experience for the Editrix; Darcy, for his many good qualities, is not exactly huggable). Darcy keeps trying to help Wickham see the folly of his ways, but finally gives up when he understands how Wickham has manipulated and lied to him.

We learn how Wickham meets the notorious Mrs. Younge, and how they work together to help him make a headway into Georgiana Darcy’s heart. It’s unfortunate that neither of them has a fortune, for they are a perfect couple, a pair of born grifters who use everyone around them–except each other.

Grange does her usual scrupulous job in creating her story around the text as written by Jane Austen. We know that for many readers such fidelity is not necessary, and the introduction of more incident, to use John Murray’s term, is desirable; but there certainly is enough incident in Wickham’s backstory to be getting on with, and we prefer paraliterature authors to play in Jane Austen’s sandbox by Jane Austen’s rules. Wickham’s Diary is a very short read–we suspect it will be much too short for some readers–and it doesn’t expand tremendously on the story as we know it, but it provides a couple of hours of absorbing entertainment, and as short as it is, we had a few “a-ha!” moments as we recognized another place where the plot clicked perfectly into Jane Austen’s original. One thing that readers learn from Pride and Prejudice is that there are two sides to every story, and perhaps it is Grange’s greatest genius, and what brings us back to her books time and again, that even while providing what should be one side of the story, the attentive reader still manages get the full picture.

So this isn’t the literary equivalent of Wickham sobbing on Oprah’s couch looking for public forgiveness. Grange gives him a few redeeming values: he loves his mother, not wisely but too well; he doesn’t really want to hurt Anne or Georgiana, but is convinced he will make them deliriously happy as he squanders their fortunes, though perhaps that can be chalked up more to vanity than anything else; and he is a rather amusing fellow. One cannot like him, though one perhaps might want to have a beer with him at the pub. Just keep a hand on your purse while you do so, for George Wickham is a bad man.

(If you like the sound of Amanda Grange’s Wickham’s Diary, you might also like to read Amanda Grange’s novel, Mr Darcy’s Diary.)

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (30 April 2011)
ISBN-10: 1402251866
RRP: £11.99


Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors. She finds that she is too much like Mr. Darcy to truly appreciate his many perfections, and thus leaves that appreciation to others while she devotes herself to the rector of Woodston parish.