Review: Pride and Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, by Carrie Bebris

First, a definition:

Prescience is the full knowledge of all possibilities…. Throughout history a number of cultures have believed that oracles have possessed this ability. It is one of a number of psychic phenomena studied by parapsychology. Although there is no scientific evidence for prescience, this has not prevented a huge number of people in the modern world from believing in astrology and visiting fortune tellers.

When I brought this book home from the library, my girls asked what the title meant.  I told them that I didn’t know exactly, I only knew it was supposed to be a mystery novel centered around the characters from Pride and Prejudice.  After trying to read this book, though, I wish I would have looked at the title as closely as my children.  To mix Elizabeth and Darcy with anything that leaned towards oracles, psychic phenomena, astrology, or fortune tellers?  That, my friends is just wrong.  But one thing at a time.

I don’t believe that Barris presumed to think anyone would mistake her voice for Jane Austen’s.  Any of the modern books that try to follow the characters and storylines from Austen’s classic novels seem built on the premise of “We all know her stuff was better, we’re just trying to have some fun here.”  And I think Barris did a fairly decent job of keeping true to the characters…I mean, sort of.  It wasn’t horrible.  But it was like listening to a stand-up comic doing a passable imitation of someone else that is truly famous.

Other reviews I’ve read for this novel lambast Barris’ disregard for keeping with the proper vernacular of Austen’s time.  This wasn’t an element of the novel that bothered me the most, but it did cross my mind.  Like little weeds creeping up through fertile soil, modern snippets of conversation – or even just exposition – periodically slid into Barris’ attempt at writing circa-Austen.  (ie:  one description of Darcy “spooning” up next to Elizabeth as she slid into bed)

So, the writing wasn’t terrible, the characters were recognizable, but things for me started to unravel with the format of the mystery.  Nothing really smooth about many of the plot “twists.”  More like blazing red arrows hovering above heads as if to say, “Look at me!  Listen to me!  I may be someone you want to remember for later!”  Barris may as well have put big asterisks next to each conversation about gothic novels, too – as if to say, “HINT HINT HINT….COME AND GET YOUR DARK, SPOOKY, MYSTERIOUS FILL RIGHT HERE!”.

After a while, it just got plain silly.  Right down to the part where the Darcys corner the bad guy and he spills out all his dastardly plans in a two and half page monologue.  And I like me some fantasy elements here and there, in the right place and with the right story.  But OH. MY. WORD.  This story ends with some incredibly laughable magical explanations for everything that has happened to the Darcys in ye olde Regency England.  And Elizabeth’s final thoughts of the book made me wince and give woe unto the idea that there’s more to come.  “In quiet moments, however, she sometimes withdrew Professor Randolph’s amulet and pondered his parting words to her.  ‘I believe you have a gift,’ he had said.  ‘A very powerful one.  Should you ever choose to cultivate it, let me know.’  Perhaps one day she would.”

Let me just tell it to you like this:  in my opinion, this book isn’t much more than The Darcys Meet Scooby Doo and Gang.  If only I’d had the prescience of mind to know that before I bothered to waste my time!!

Amazon details:
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (May 1, 2007)
Average Customer Review: 3 stars, based on 62 reviews
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #108,680 in Books
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North By Northanger, or The Shades of Pemberley: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris
These Three Remain: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan
An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan
Duty and Desire: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan
Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (Jane Austen Mysteries) by Stephanie Barron

  • I tend to avoid all such takeoffs on classic lit. They’re just trying to capitalize on the popularity of the original and especially for books/authors that I enjoy, I don’t want anything tainting my experience of them.

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