Monday, January 14, 2013

Jane Austen satire, hilariousness ensues! Review of "Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret" by Vera Nazarian

Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret by Vera Nazarian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Classical literature satire
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Jane Austen, satire, cross-genre mashups
Trigger Warnings: Demons beasts! Giant, murderous DUCKS!! And a truly horrible creature called a platypus.

Disclosure: I picked up a copy of this book from Amazon during a free promotion because I so enjoyed the book Northanger Abbey and Angels and Demons. No review has been requested. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: "When the moon is full over Regency England, all the gentlemen are subject to its curse.

Mr. Darcy, however, harbors a Dreadful Secret...

Shape-shifting demons mingle with Australian wildlife, polite society, and high satire, in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic supernatural parody of Jane Austen's classic novel.

The powerful, mysterious, handsome, and odious Mr. Darcy announces that Miss Elizabeth Bennet is not good enough to tempt him. The young lady determines to find out his one secret weakness—all the while surviving unwanted proposals, Regency balls, foolish sisters, seductive wolves, matchmaking mothers, malodorous skunks, general lunacy, and the demonic onslaught of the entire wild animal kingdom!

What awaits her is something unexpected. And only moon, matrimony, and true love can overcome pride and prejudice!

"Gentle Reader—this Delightful Illustrated Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.

My Thoughts: Like Northanger Abbey and Angels and Demons (my review here where formatting allowed), this is a delightful mock-up of the original, or at least I assume so, because also like that one, I have not actually read the original version of Pride and Prejudice, or if I have, I have successfully managed to suppress all memory of it. After reading this excellent satire, I feel I have done myself a grave injustice and am more determined than ever to seek out and read as much Jane Austen as I can, as the story, even buried under satire, was really quite charming and left me with a smile on my face. A more voluble expression of love I have never heard than, “Dearest Elizabeth... There is something different about the world; can you suddenly feel it?

Early on in the book it is noted that the Affliction to which the men of Regency England were subjected caused them to:
...take on various unnatural shapes—neither quite demon, nor proper beast—and in those shapes to roam the land; to hunt, murder, dismember, gorge on blood, consume haggis and kidney pie, gamble away their familial fortune, marry below their station (and below their stature, when the lady is an Amazon), vote Whig, perform sudden and voluntary manual labor, cultivate orchids, collect butterflies and Limoges snuff boxes, and perpetrate other such odious evil—unless properly contained.

That is, indeed, a great deal of odious evil. Especially the haggis and kidney pie! (Locations 207-213 and 213-217 in Kindle edition)

This gives you a bit of an idea about the hilariousness of this book! The idea of men going through a monthly
Affliction, and the way they use it as another bragging point, building and/or buying cages and crates and chains... and typical overcompensation as to their various sizes. I love the way the author has taken the notion and just run with it to extreme (and extremely funny) lengths. The same with the absurd Mr. Collins and his ridiculous ideas about crossbreeding native Australian fauna with British, such as the kangaroo with goats. It was almost beaten to death, but it was hilarious. Also some of the ideas people had about the origins of such animals was very funny, such as the description of a platypus as “the natural offspring of a duck, otter, beaver, snake, crocodile, gazelle, porcupine, and, I am told, a watercress-fed water buffalo—

There is a bit of a problem with typos littering the book. I saw “tired” for “tried,” “game” for “gave, “wrecked” ‘for “wreaked”, and “bread” for “bred” among others. Most of them I skipped right over, but the “bread/bred” one was particularly ironic, since it was talking about how the Brighton Duck was “bread” for ferocity and monstrousness or some-such. That one made me laugh quite a lot, as I thought to myself, “I daresay she means ‘bred’, for whilst a duck might eat ‘bread’, they are nonetheless ‘bred’ from one generation to the next.” Then I laughed some more at how I’d unconsciously picked up the wording style of the book. I laughed again later in remembrance when Mr. Collins began his ridiculous rants about crossbreeding Australian fauna with British.

The dueling-editors thing was something that wasn’t quite pulled off to full effect, in this reader’s humble opinion. There were some moments of true hilarity, it is true, but some of them felt forced. I think the ones where the editors are basically just talking to each other could have been excised and that would have felt better to me. I certainly wouldn’t recommend skipping them, because some of them are pure comedy gold, such as footnote 62 regarding the nature of a preservative, but if it annoys you to flip back and forth, even using an e-reader, then maybe save some of them for the end? Another instance in which I feel the ball was dropped was the spoken language of the various characters. Overall it was very good, but there was the profligate use of “got” and “get” within the speech patterns that I cannot help but believe was not at all common among the people of the time.

At the risk of making an already-long review ever longer, I wanted to comment in general about how the world has changed in 200 years! Consider in Regency England a tan was considered “coarse,” yet today we are considered “sickly looking” if we are too pale. Not to mention how the use of the language has changed (deteriorated in my own opinion) from the gracious gentility of the time. Again in my opinion, reverting somewhat to a more lovely use of the language, rather than the hurried and ugly version we use today, would do nothing but improve the world overall.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book a lot. Any flaws were minor and easily overlooked for the most part. Again there were a few drawings scattered through the book, showcasing this author’s many talents. I believe Nazarian did the spirit of Jane Austen justice in this satire, with love and laughter, so fans of Jane Austen’s work ought to enjoy this. Fan of cross-genre mock-ups and satires will also want to be certain to read this wonderful story. Highly recommended!

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