Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Lady Catherine's Necklace by Joan Aiken

Title: Lady Catherine's Necklace
Author: Joan Aiken
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: 2000
Pages: 176

Rating: 3 out of 10

I normally try to avoid Jane Austen re-writes and sequels, and this book is a perfect example of my reason for doing do.

While it doesn't feature any of the major characters from Pride & Prejudice, this book does focus on the family members of Darcy, and on the Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The book picks up where Austen's classic left off, and Lady Catherine's daughter Anne is still not married to any rich suitor. Deciding that second-best is better than nothing at all, she arranges for Anne to be married to Fitzwilliam, Darcy's brother.

There were also some bits about mysterious house guests, some romance that interfered with Lady Catherine's plans, and a kidnapping of Lady Catherine herself.
If all of these points sound interesting and you are wondering why I don't go into more detail about them in the plot, it's because they were anything but interesting. In fact, this entire book was decidedly and horribly boring.

It took me nearly a week to finish Lady Catherine's Necklace, which is the longest I have taken on any book in a long time (besides Jonathan Strange & Mrs. Norrell - but that one was over 1,000 pages). So was this a huge, thick book? No, only 176 pages.

I never noticed anything in particular that was bad about this book, as in, specific points. It was more just a general disinterest in everything written there.
I certainly didn't spot anything good - and I kept looking in vain for just a few slightly redeeming pages, perhaps a pretty description or an insightful speech by a character.

None of the characters jumped out at me, and now only a few days after finishing, I remember most of them by name only, except for Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This, however, is because Austen already gave me such a picture of her. Aiken on the other hand did nothing to further it.

I was amused at how the inside cover of my edition, in praise of Joan Aiken, said that she was the expert of modern Jane Austen writing, and writes just like her, or "in the tone of" Austen. This is an outright lie, so please do not be drawn in. Aiken's shallow writing is nothing like Jane Austen, and nor is it even close.

Yet more false advertising was the title itself. Necklaces had nothing to do with the main storyline.

The plot seems to get wrapped up in itself, or rather tangled up, sending it very often tripping and reeling out of control. At many points I thought "wha...?"
I didn't bother to wonder too long at these instances, however, because I just didn't care.
Every single character could have been abruptly devoured by giant alien robot dinosaurs at the end, and I would have simply tossed it aside with an "eh."

In my opinion, Jane Austen should be left alone. Her works stand as shining literary beacons all by themselves. Please do not waste your time on this one.

End Note - Since this review paints Joan Aiken to be a terrible writer, I felt compelled to add a little note here. Aiken's book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was a beloved favorite of mine as a child. I read it numerous times, and I still look back on it with the warmth that only a girlhood classic can draw up. Please do not let this terrible example of Aiken's writing stop you from rushing out to buy her classic children's tale for your children (or yourself).