Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll is a "sequel" to Jane Austen's famous novel "Pride & Prejudice". Many people adore Pride & Prejudice and wonder what would have happened after the story ends. There have been many, many attempts at writing the sequel in a number of styles - sexy, eloquent, comedic, and so on. I've read many of these and enjoy them all - if they're well written. I'm afraid that this version by Linda Berdoll is simply NOT as good as the others.

First, let me make clear that while I enjoy the Austen stories in all their variety I would not call myself a purist. I enjoy movie versions even when they veer from the storyline. I don't mind at all the idea of Austen characters having sex. I've read sexy versions of the stories. That's fine. Human beings certainly do have sex and it's fine to write a "romance" that mentions it.

What I have a serious problem with in this Berdoll version is her writing. She simply is not a good writer. The sentences are completely convoluted and should never have gotten past a qualified editor. It is almost as if she wrote the novel in Spanish and then used an online translator program to turn it into "as complicated a version of 1800s English as you can muster." The sentences often simply do not make sense. It is as if she thumbed through a Thesaurus to find random words which had 8 syllables and were maybe sort of similar in meaning, and stuck them in. She routinely uses words incorrectly. I have never read a book which used language this poorly.

In addition to completely wrong word use, she also has problems with repetition. She gets hooked on certain words and uses them repeatedly - often multiple times in the same sentence. She throws parenthesis in all the time in ways that make little sense.

Let's move past that. If she had a good editor who fixed all those problems for her, would the story itself be OK? First there's the issue of the sex. It is extremely over the top on one hand, but poorly written on the other. The descriptions sound like a sex manual from the 50s might have. I have read all level of romances and you can definitely write sex scenes that are highly moving without being explicit. It's as if Berdoll is trying to achieve that "not be explicit" goal but does so by leaving out anything you might connect with. It made me think of 13 year old girls glimpsing a hard core movie that just had body parts and no meaning behind it.

I agree that people writing a sequel should have some leeway with the characters - to give them more depth of personality. Here Berdoll managed to do the opposite. She took Charlotte - a wonderfully complex character in the initial book - and turned her into a nasty, emotionally crippled wooden doll who takes delight in her husband's death. Elizabeth changes from an intelligent witty woman to a fainting, moping slouch who apparently every man wants to sleep with. Mr. Darcy loses any semblance of appeal when his main attraction is his throbbing member, but who seems completely uncaring when he runs into a dying young man. Jane is a polyanna brain-dead baby-churner, Bingley is bed hopping. All of the characters seem to have been stripped of personality and turned into flat paper doll versions. Again, I don't mind that characters change or take new directions - but these characters have been completely washed out.

I forced myself to read the entire story, to make sure I gave it a fair review. This book is DENSE - 465 pages, tiny letters. A lot of that is fluff - poorly chosen words, lots of them.

I tried to envision what type of person this book might appeal to. Someone who has only seen a movie version and wants to have a sexy "what happens next" idea would be the target audience - but the writing is horrific! Why would they slog through the convoluted sentences with inappropriate words? Why not read one of the many other sexy sequels where the writing was well done? If this was the ONLY book on the shelf and you wanted to read a version of "what did the next day hold" I might imagine wincing your way through it as the only option. But this is NOT the only option. There are many others. To me you could ask this exact same question about any book out there. Let's say you like the Robin Hood era. Say there's an awfully written book about Robin Hood. You could say "I really want to read about Robin Hood so I suffered with the awful writing to do it." But you have other choices. I just can't imagine why I would deliberately choose a book with really poor writing, when I could just as easily pick up one of the well written books and enjoy it instead.

I have to imagine that the people who liked this book skipped over the gobblygook sections and went for the sex scenes. I would love to ask them what they thought some of those convoluted sentences *meant* - if they actually read them, or if they skimmed any time the "unbeknownst howsoever countenance howbeit" language became dense. I like to actually read the books I buy, rather than skip over sections that are poorly strung together.

Not well recommended.

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