“What’s the play tonight?” he asked, rubbing her arms.
“Macbeth with Jennifer Ehle as Lady Macbeth. She was the actress in that BBC production Georgiana and I made you watch.”
“I thought it was the actor you guys were drooling over, not the actress.” He couldn’t see what was so special about some uptight guy refusing to dance that drove women crazy. He had made the mistake of saying that aloud and had been kicked out of the media room. It boggled his mind that there were two cinematic versions of the same story. The women in his household rapturously watched both versions repeatedly and obsessively.
“It’s not the actor. It’s the character from the book he played.”
(from Compulsively Mr. Darcy, page 199 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)
Compulsively Mr. Darcy is a hilarious modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in which Nina Benneton exaggerates the personality traits of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet that cause a string of misunderstandings. I didn’t want to put this book down, reading 300 pages in one day and only stopping because I had to go to work in the morning.
Benneton’s novel opens in Vietnam, where Dr. Elizabeth Bennet is an infectious disease specialist and Jane Bennet is helping run their uncle and aunt Gardiner’s orphanage. Charles Bingley is in Vietnam with his sister and her husband, who plan to adopt a baby from the orphanage, and he brings his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy along because he’s the responsible one. When Bingley’s ADHD leads to an accident that requires a trip to the hospital, Darcy butts heads with Elizabeth by demanding that Bingley be treated right away and insisting that the hospital is unhygienic.
Misunderstandings abound in Compulsively Mr. Darcy, and the more Elizabeth and Darcy get to know each other, the more I couldn’t stop laughing. Not only does Elizabeth think their relationship cannot progress because Darcy and Bingley are a couple, she also thinks Darcy is unemployed. Benneton’s Elizabeth is clueless when it comes to men and known for making big decisions without thinking them through. Meanwhile, Darcy struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, and the lengths he goes to in order to keep his loved ones safe seem way over-the-top to anyone who doesn’t know why he needs to control the situation.
I loved Compulsively Mr. Darcy for a number of reasons. I liked how Benneton handled Elizabeth’s acceptance of Darcy’s OCD, never belittling the seriousness of the condition even while portraying it in a lighthearted manner. Benneton also uses Austen’s secondary characters in surprising ways, from Mary Bennet as a tree-hugging computer hacker to Anne de Bourgh as…well, you just have to see for yourself. Most of all, Benneton doesn’t follow Pride and Prejudice too closely, so I never knew what was going to happen next. Beware of a few graphic sex scenes, and prepare to laugh out loud!
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.