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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★☆☆

7th May 1791

I avoided Peter de Quincy when I first returned to Cambridge, but he keeps seeking me out and it is easier to go along with him than resist him.  Besides, he knows all the best people and, when he is not frequenting low taverns, he is introducing me to useful friends.  I see less of Darcy than I used.  Something about him makes me uncomfortable.  He wants to save me, to put my feet on the right path, but his idea of the right path for me does not involve heiresses.  On the few occasions I have seen him I have rebuffed him.

(from Wickham’s Diary, page 85 in the ARC)

Amanda Grange, known for writing the diaries of Jane Austen’s heroes, turns her attention to the scoundrel from Pride and Prejudice in Wickham’s Diary.  In Austen’s novel, George Wickham is the horrid man who told lies about Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, giving her the wrong idea about Mr. Darcy’s character.  He attempted to elope with Darcy’s sister and was forced to marry Elizabeth’s impetuous sister, Lydia.  In Wickham’s Diary, Grange explores the friendship that existed between Darcy and Wickham when they were boys and how they took two completely different paths in life — Darcy becoming a well-respected gentleman and Wickham becoming a gambler, drunkard, womanizer, and fortune hunter.

At slightly more than 200 pages, Wickham’s Diary is a quick read and made my afternoon commute fly by.  I enjoyed Grange’s writing and applaud her for trying something new in the realm of Austen variations.  However, there were no major revelations or exciting secrets in this book.  Grange begins the tale when Wickham and Darcy are 12 years old, many years before the events of Pride and Prejudice, but the story falls a bit flat.  Wickham is encouraged by his mother to become a gentleman by seeking out an heiress to marry, and he initially sets his sights on Darcy’s cousin, Anne de Bourgh.  Wickham stops trying to act gentlemanly when he goes to Cambridge, spending his time drinking, gambling, and whoring and setting the stage for several letters to Darcy to beg for money.

Grange barely scratches the surface of Wickham’s character, providing nothing more than what readers could have imagined themselves based on what Austen writes about Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.  I wish the story had gone deeper than Wickham’s love for his mother — who reminded me of Lydia Bennet — and his determination to marry an heiress.  It would have been interesting to see the events of Pride and Prejudice from his eyes, from the time he arrives in Meryton to his marriage to Lydia and perhaps beyond, but the novel ends rather abruptly.

Although Wickham’s Diary wasn’t my favorite Austen variation, I liked that Grange introduced a few new characters and shed some light on Darcy’s past, particularly the burdens of carrying the Darcy name.  The diary format makes it a quick read, and if you can’t get enough of the Austen variations, it may be worth giving a try.

Check out my reviews of other Amanda Grange books:

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
Captain Wentworth’s Diary

Disclosure: I received Wickham’s Diary from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m very happy to welcome Amanda Grange to Diary of an Eccentric today.  Her latest release, Wickham’s Diary, will be reviewed here next week.  I’ve enjoyed some of her other books, particularly Mr. Darcy’s Diary and Captain Wentworth’s Diary, so I was very excited to be able to ask her questions about the Jane Austen craze (which has taken over my reading life lately).  I’d like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.  Please give a warm welcome to Amanda Grange.

You’ve written several novels from the point of view of Austen’s heroes. With your latest release, Wickham’s Diary, you appear to be turning to the shady men in her novels. Do you plan to write more like this?

Not at the moment, no. I really wanted to explore the relationship between Wickham and Darcy when they were children and young men, and I’ve written it through Wickham’s eyes. I was fascinated by the way they could start out as friends and end up as bitter enemies.

What is your favorite Austen novel? Who is your favorite Austen hero, heroine, couple? Why?

My favourite novel is Pride and Prejudice. It’s my idea of a perfection. The characters, the humour, the romance and also the technical things like the construction, are all brilliant.

My favourite hero and heroine fluctuates, and so does my favourite couple. Since writing Colonel Brandon’s Diary I’ve fallen in love with him, so I’m going to say Brandon for the hero, Emma for the heroine and Brandon and Marianne for the couple. But if you ask me again another day I will probably say something different!

Why do you think Pride and Prejudice gets all the attention? Don’t get me wrong, I love P&P, but Persuasion is my favorite, and I’d love to see more variations of that novel.

If you’re asking why the publishing / media world give Pride and Prejudice the most attention, it’s because Pride and Prejudice has the biggest fan base and therefore they can be almost certain of making a profit on Darcy-related projects. But because Persuasion doesn’t have such a big fan base, producing Persuasion-based novels, films etc is more of a risk. If you’re asking why Pride and Prejudice gets the most attention from fans, I’m not really sure. I think it’s because of the sparkling nature of the romance, and because of Mr Darcy.

What is it about Austen that has you devoting your writing to her novels and characters?

Something about Austen’s world has always drawn me in. I only have to open one of her books and I’m immediately in her world. I love her humour and her wit, and I love the way all her books are different. I couldn’t have written a series of diaries if they’d all been the same kind of book. One of the biggest challenges for me was in trying to capture the mood of the original and the character of the hero in the writing, as well as retelling the story from a different point of view. It’s been really rewarding to do and I feel I’ve come to know the originals so much better through doing it.

What is your favorite movie adaptation of an Austen novel?

That’s difficult, but if I’m only allowed one, I think I’ll have to choose the 1995 film of Persuasion. I thought Amanda Root was luminous as Anne. She captured the pervasive air of melancholy beautifully and incredible subtly.

Any hints about what you’re working on now?

It’s a bit too early to say, but I have several projects in the early stages. It’s safe to say that one of them is likely to have the words Mr Darcy in the title!

Do you have a special place where you write? If so, could you describe it?

I work mainly in my study because if I try to work anywhere else I get distracted and wander off to make a cup of tea or do a spot of weeding! It’s a plain room without any pictures on the walls because I find it easier to concentrate that way. I have a large desk, but even so the floor, desk and window ledge are usually covered in research books, pictures, source materials, calendars and print-outs of draft versions. I’ve learnt from experience that it’s a mistake to tidy up because then I can’t find anything, but somehow I manage to put my finger on what I want very quickly as long as the room is a mess. I have an instinct that it’s under the pile of papers on top of the dictionary that’s about to fall off the desk!

What do you do when you’re not writing or immersed in Austen?

I like to get out of doors as much as possible, it’s a complete change from my indoor working life. I like gardening and walking, and if I’m feeling particularly energetic I like to go cycling.

What are some of the best books you’ve read recently?

I’ve just read The Small Hand, which is a novella by Susan Hill. It’s a very atmospheric ghost story and I loved it. I also read The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud lately. I love humorous books, there aren’t enough of them. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

Thanks, Amanda!  I’m looking forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I’m giving away 1 copy of Wickham’s Diary to one of my readers.  To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address, along with your recommendation for a humorous book, since Amanda so kindly asked.  This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada and will end at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, April 17, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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