Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud

I imagine that Jane Austen would be astounded at not only the continued popularity of her own Pride and Prejudice but also at the plethora of modern retellings of her perennially popular novel. Rigaud enters that fray here with her updated version positing Darcy as the lead guitarist of a wildly successful rock band called Slurry, with band mates Charles Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam, and Elizabeth Bennet as the lead guitarist of the up and coming rock band Long Bourne Suffering chosen to tour with Slurry. Of course, sweet Jane Bennet and Charlotte Lucas are Elizabeth's bandmates.

The tale opens with a television interview giving the history of Slurry and their current troubles finding and keeping an opening act. After the interview, the story itself starts as Darcy, Charles, and Richard meet with manager Caroline Bingley to preview a new band to whom they plan to offer the opening act on the North American portion of their tour. That band is Long Bourne Suffering and it seems poised on the verge of making it big. Darcy does worry that the women of the band, Lizzy, Jane, and Charlotte, will do anything and everything in their power to get and keep the fame they'll be exposed to on Slurry's tour but he is realistic enough to know that they need an opening band and they need it now. So while he warns Charles away from the women, which Lizzy overhears, he swallows his misgivings and the two bands connect. As they practice and tour together, Jane and Charles fall for each other, Charlotte and Richard can't keep their hands off of each other, and Darcy and Lizzy irritate each other even as the sparks fly between them.

Despite the similarities though, this is no Pride and Prejudice. This is definitely an updating with sex, drugs, and rock and roll running rampant through the novel. I'm not really a Pride and Pejudice purist so this edgier take wouldn't have fazed me in the slightest if I hadn't found so many other problems with it. The framing technique (the story both opens and closes with televised interviews functioning as both prologue and epilogue) did nothing to draw the reader into the story. In fact, it made me want to put the book down again immediately. And while it provides the reader with enough history to jump into the story, there was a real deus ex machina feel to it.

Rigaud re-imagines several of the characters who gave real depth to the original. There is an almost complete absence of Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley is nice, Anne de Bourgh is snotty, Charlotte Lucas isn't the practical girl who settles, and so on. Given her willingness to change the characters to suit her updated vision, Rigaud hews very closely to the plot points of the original, which turns out to be an awkward stretch. These misunderstandings and situations should not have been considered sacrosanct to the detriment of the current book and unfortunately this is the case.

The characters, including those whose basic characters she didn't change, came off as bland rather than dimensional. Their stilted dialogue (they only use contractions on rare occasions, which frankly draws even more attention to the general lack of them as one would expect in normal dialogue) is hard to read and there is a fair amount of dialogue in this tale. Most of the latter half of the book seems to be one sex scene after another (and it's never good when graphic sex scenes get repetitive and boring) rather than anything that pushes the plot forward, causing the narrative tension to flatline entirely. I was quite disappointed with the novel, even moreso since it came highly recommended and it had such potential. It's a bad sign when I am happy enough to return a copy to the friend to whom it belongs and I reminded her more than once last night to take it home. Not one of the better re-imaginings I've read.

1 comment:

  1. I have this one sitting on my shelf. It doesn't sound like I should be in any hurry to get to it though. Boring graphic sex scenes just can't be good.


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