Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Only Half the Battle

I haven't written much in the past couple of weeks, because I have been slogging.  Two kinds of slogging, actually: the good and the bad.

What do you think, good first, or bad?  Good, I think; bad is more interesting to rant about.  The good stuff is Lady Catherine's Necklace, by Joan Aiken.  Now, I'd heard of Joan Aiken as the author of the famous children's book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  I've learned recently that she's written about a gajillion and one books, a bunch of which are novels following the lives of the minor characters in Jane Austen's work. 

This one, for example, is about what happens at Lady Catherine de Bourgh's house after Darcy abruptly decides not to marry his wan cousin Anne and instead to toddle off with Elizabeth Bennett.  Elizabeth's friend Charlotte is of course still married to the obsequious Mr. Collins, and Colonel Fitzwilliam is still lurking about the place.  I understand that in some of her Austen books, Aiken takes some liberties with people's favorite characters and gets them really, really upset (I wish I could link to the Goodreads review of Eliza's Daughter that is just a long string of swear words.)

The story is written with an eye toward Austen's language, and well executed in that respect.  You could not say that Jane Austen would have written it, though.  There is far more high drama (theft and kidnapping and suicide) and small touches that feel comfortable to modern sensibilities but that would not have occurred to Jane (a pair of confirmed bachelor roommates, some gender-bending stuff I won't give away).  Beyond these points, though, both the characters and the story are far more blunt than they would have been in Austen's day.

So why do I call it a slog?  Because for a short book, it took forever to read.  The writing had that lavishly constructed Austen thing going on, but I can hardly blame that; I'm a fairly literate person, after all.  But in spite of the length (less than 200 pages) and the font size (massive), it took forever to read this book.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  Go figure.

This post is ending up longer than I thought.  Tomorrow: the other side of the slogging coin, or: Why I Used the Word Slog.

No comments: