#78 A Review of Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski

Cover ImageDivided into two volumes, Karen Wasylowski’s debut novel, Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and An Officer tells the story of our beloved characters after the marriage of Darcy to Ms. Elizabeth Bennet.  Col. Fitzwilliam, just back from the Peninsular war, returns to rejoin his boyhood friend (and biological cousin) Darcy and his new bride.  Although their reunion is lighthearted and filled with jokes from their past, some unfinished business lurks beneath the laughter as Darcy and Fitzwilliam grow apart over time.  Enter volume two, where Col. Fitzwilliam enjoys pseudo-rock star status as a veteran of the war returning to his homeland.  Enjoying his new-found celebrity, Fitzwilliam comes across Lady Amanda Sayles, with whom he falls head over heels in love.  Sayles returns his affections, but worries that engaging in a relationship with Fitzwilliam would jeopardize her relationship with her son.  What will become of Fitzwilliam in this matter?  Will Fitzwilliam and Darcy ever reconcile their growing resentment?

I know from other reviews I read that reviewers either liked or hated this book.  Many of the “hate” reviews seemed to be centered around their dislike of the liberties taken with the characters.  Personally I’m not an Austen purist; I tend to get bored with reading the same thing over and over and over again.  I really enjoy reading the new personality traits that authors come up with and give to each character.  It’s this trait that helped in guiding my enjoyment in this novel.  I was able to take it for what it was at face value: laugh when I was supposed to, be sad when I was supposed to, and just enjoy the overall story lines that Wasylowski came up with.

Just from following Wasylowski’s twitter, I knew I was in for lots of laughter when I decided to read Darcy and Fitzwilliam.  Wasylowski’s take on Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennet were absolutely hysterical; taking the most ridiculous elements in both of them and blowing them way out of proportion.  The end result are two uproarious women who were utterly ridiculous (in a good way).

For those of you Janeites out there, that can withstand liberties taken with Jane’s original masterpieces, then I’d tell you to give this novel a try.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will certainly make you joyful for deciding to revisit Darcy, Elizabeth, Fitzwilliam, and the rest of the Pride and Prejudice gang.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-sixth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my twelfth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski
Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback 496 pages

An Interview with Karen Wasylowski; Author of Darcy and Fitzwilliam

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Please help me in welcoming author Karen Wasylowski to the blog.  Karen recently answered some questions for us! Karen, welcome, and thank you so much for doing this!

So a little getting to know you as a person, as opposed to you the author:

If you could read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

That would be a dreary prospect, wouldn’t it?  Couldn’t I pick just one author – nope that would grow tiresome too.  I suppose my favorite book to date has been Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I love historical novels, especially that early period of English history.   But, to read only that for the rest of my life?  I think I would go insane without a lot of books to read.

 If you had to describe your writing with a color, what color would you choose and why?

I keep thinking green, maybe because of the cover of my book, but more than likely because I am so new to this whole thing.  I have no discipline when I write, none whatsoever.  I run for coffee, I play the chess game on the computer, I feed the dog (my dog’s name is Darcy, naturally).  The process of writing is still a mystery to me.  I find I become obsessed with word count, terrified I’ll never conjure up enough of a story to fill a column and then suddenly I have several chapters done – but they don’t fit in with the beginning chapters, so then I must go back and change the beginning.  It is completely unscientific and arbitrary; it’s frightening.  It’s hell on earth.  My career when I worked for real was accounting.  There you had clear-cut goals and columns to check and balance.  With writing it’s just you and your imagination.

If you had all the money in the world and could only travel to one place, where would it be and why?

I have always wanted to go to Great Britain.  It’s such a simple desire but it’s not necessarily the money holding me back, it’s fear of flying and since my husband hates to fly too, there is no one pushing this.  We figure we’ll have to take a cruise over and a cruise back.  That’s two weeks gone already.  Then we would need another two weeks at least to cover all of England with Britrail, another two weeks for Ireland, then Scotland…  You get the idea.  And, this is getting very expensive, isn’t it? Whoa!  It IS the money holding us back.

If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I think if I could meet any one person, dead or alive, I would have to pick Jesus – he kind of covers both of those life conditions.  I am not going to get holier than thou here but, who else in history has ever affected the lives of so many millions and millions of people and wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear what he has to say directly and not filtered through our own prejudices?

On to you, the author!

Did you always wish that you would someday become a published author?

Not at all.  It was a thought I entertained occasionally, like wouldn’t it be nice to be a movie star, or a park ranger, or a TV chef.  I had never written anything before Darcy and Fitzwilliam, not a short story, not a letter to the editor – nothing.   I started writing because my husband was nagging me to all the time.  I think he wanted to be left alone with the remote on Duke basketball nights.

It’s obvious in reading Darcy and Fitzwilliam that you enjoy humor. Where do you find the inspiration for your humor?

Thank you very much.  I love humor.  I wish that they had mentioned something about humor on the jacket of the book.  I don’t know why they didn’t because the first thing my editor said to me was, “You are wicked funny!”  I had no idea what that meant exactly.  I was afraid I had written something dirty in the book and forgotten about it.  Then I was told that’s an east coast expression.  Of course they didn’t even put an accurate description of the story on the jacket so any mention of it being funny as well was obviously not going to happen.   My favorite type of humor is gentle and not cruel.  I remember when I was younger we all thought really sarcastic humor was the best – we called it Acid Mouth.  Unfortunately, that type of humor loses it’s appeal when it’s directed back at yourself.

What made you want to take on writing about Darcy and Fitzwilliam specifically, as opposed to the other characters in Pride and Prejudice? To take it one step further, why characters from P&P?

I had just seen the 2005 movie for about the tenth time, I thought Matthew Macfadyen was gorgeous, and I loved the scene at the dining table, where Aunt Catherine is quizzing Lizzy while Darcy squirms in his seat.  You couldn’t help but think she was as bad in her way as Mrs. Bennet was in hers.  Anyway, there is a brief exchange of looks between Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and Fitzwilliam looks as if he’s thoroughly enjoying his friend’s discomfort.  I thought that was cute.  That’s it.  I knew that the relationship between the two men was more than the movie showed, much closer.  They were cousins, Fitzwilliam shares guardianship of Georgiana with Darcy due to the will Darcy’s father had left.  My mind just started to buzz.

 In P&P, both Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine are eccentric on opposite ends of the crazy spectrum. In your work, it was extremely humorous to read their eccentricities magnified. What other characters (not just Austen’s) would you like to take and give similar treatment to?

What an interesting question but I can’t think of another book I’d care to continue or other characters whose lives I would want to live.  Pride and Prejudice is so iconic, it’s so funny and it’s so sweet, the characters so normal!  What other book is there like that?  It is the original romance story.  Those people are very, very dear to me, so much so that I felt comfortable letting them take over my head.  I can’t think of any other characters that I love that much.

As Darcy and Fitzwilliam is your debut novel, what lessons have you learned about the publication process that you’d like to pass on?

It’s not like the movies.  I didn’t have lines of people clutching copies of Darcy and Fitzwilliam at book signings.  My Publisher never called, never begged me to fly out to New York for drinks, I wasn’t pursued by the media to my log cabin home in California in the mountains by a lake overlooking the Pacific Ocean (I realize that’s impossible but I think I saw that in one Nora Roberts movie).   I also found I am very thin-skinned when it comes to criticism, I cry easily and I couldn’t look at my Amazon page for six months.  It was an incredible roller coaster ride where I was on top of the world one minute and then running to the doctors with stomach problems the next.  It was both one of the best and one of the worst experiences of my life.  A person would have to be insane to want to go through it more than once.

What can we expect from you in the future? Any writing projects you can tell us about?

Yes.  I am writing a sequel to my sequel.  I am insane.  So far it’s titled ‘Darcy and Fitzwilliam – Fatherhood’ and follows the two men through their lives first as sons and then as fathers themselves, seeing the problems from both sides as it were.  There have been so many books about motherhood and how sacred that role is, but I don’t think there are many about fathers.  We may take our dads for granted a little.  They are so often in the background, tired and crabby from working.  I admire them tremendously.  My dad worked until his death at 73.  I think he was afraid not to work, afraid that without his work he would be less of a man.   I see Darcy being that noble and Fitzwilliam being that stubborn.

Karen, thank you so much for spending Thanksgiving with us!  My review for Darcy and Fitzwilliam will be posted tomorrow, so check back in!  In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with lots of turkey and books!