It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when writing a book review, it is imperative that one does not give away important plot points.
But when the plot of the reviewed novel is a play on the exact same plot of a far more famous and thoroughly studied novel, how could you not?
And like what would have been perhaps a more stimulating review had it not been forced to focus so much on basic storyline, Alexandra Potter’s Me and Mr. Darcy also suffers from an overindulgence in plot.
Just not it’s own plot.
Aimed at Jane Austen fans, this novel tells the tale of one Pride and Prejudice fanatic who travels to England for an Austen-themed tour and ends up having a romance of her own — exactly like the one in Pride and Prejudice. There’s pride, prejudice, and a whole lot of misunderstandings. As main character Emily Albright is swept off into her own fantasy world by Mr. Darcy (literally, he appears out of the book), she is annoyingly ignorant of the fact that Pride and Prejudice is playing out, word for word, in her very own life: She meets a seemingly rude man who insults her behind her back. She loathes him for a while as he attempts to be friendlier with her. There’s a misunderstanding about a man who seemed nice but really isn’t, and the rude man proclaims his love for the girl all so that she can yell at him and then decide she loves him later.
Anyone who’s even remotely familiar with this plot will find Me and Mr. Darcy a tad too predictable. Yet the similarities don’t end there. After a while, the characters even spout the exact same lines from the novel. Really? I knew just by looking at the cover that this was going to be a typical Pride and Prejudice spin-off/parody/homage/fangirl story, so I suppose a little similarity is necessary, but I think the author took it a little too far.
However, this book is not without its redeeming qualities. For instance, it was a very light and enjoyable summer read. I was able to move through the pages quickly once I was able to get into it. A few of the characters were fun, though I would have liked to have seen a little more development, and the dialogue, although at times unbelievable, was current.
But it was during the times in which the dialogue was not so believable that I really cringed. Not only was the speech teetering awkwardly between exaggeratingly-current to I’m-pretty-sure-no-one-talks-like-that-anymore, but it was also mainly coupled with our star character Emily Albright. She too stood oddly between two ends of the spectrum. Initially, we are told that Emily is a bit of a nerd. She works in a bookstore, would rather pack books in her suitcase than clothes, would prefer doing anything other than partying in Mexico with her polar-opposite best friend, and is a hopeless romantic. Yet further along in the book, we soon are met with Emily smoking a joint, thinking about her partying college lifestyle, and, for some unnecessary reason, deciding she now likes fashion more than books. A little unbelievable? I’d say yes.
And while perhaps all this unbelievability stems from a British author trying and failing to write from an American perspective, she does wrap it all up with a nice moral: Ladies, lower your standards a little bit. Your fantasies are lovely and all, but you know what’s great about non-fictional guys? They’re real.
So just like Emily fell in love with Mr. Darcy for all the wrong reasons, I think that readers have fallen in love with Pride and Prejudice for all the wrong reasons as well. Yes, the love story was in there, but Austen’s book said so much more about society, people’s character, and their views at that point in time. I think such updates of the original novel mask what was truly good and important about it in the first place, and I’d be more interested in another adaptation than a plot-twister (kind of?) like this book any day.