Reviews

Mr Darcy’s Diary and The Private Diary of Mr Darcy

Wendy Holden, Daily Mail

It's an awfully good idea,… the fictional diary of Mr Darcy, the smouldering but inscrutable hero of Pride And Prejudice, recounting the events of the novel from his point of view.

It's a bit of risk, though. Successful, male, fictional diarists (in Britain at any rate) tend to be aspirational, vulnerable, comic pedants, Charles Pooter and Adrian Mole being the finest examples. Mr Darcy's Diary, on the other hand, concerns the private world of a handsome, powerful, wealthy aristocrat whose position in society is unassailable. In presenting him as an essentially serious figure, Slater is entering largely uncharted territory.

She does it well, however. Mr Darcy's Diary's strengths come from being carefully researched and full of painstaking period detail. And Slater adds colour to her hero by giving him lots of interesting friends and acquaintances: Lord Byron is one, trying ever to draw Darcy into acts of madness and badness.

He succeeds a couple of times, most spectacularly when, in a scene as far from the home life of our own dear Longbourn as it is possible to imagine, Darcy gets busy with two blondes during an orgy at Newstead Abbey.

More endearing is the Jeeves and Wooster relationship between Darcy and his valet, Peebles, who longs to get his master into more blingtastic attire. Most interestingly and unexpectedly of all, the wan Anne de Bourgh, Darcy's cousin and the daughter of the redoubtable Lady Catherine, emerges as a proto-feminist, a forward-thinking champion of the latest farming technology.

But then Slater's Darcy is more of a New Man than Austen's. He's emotionally literate and perceptive; his reading of Lydia Bennet as tragic heroine and sacrificial lamb, for instance, borders on the revolutionary. He's interested in good cooking, sensitive to his men-friends and into social justice and ethical investing (he won't put his money into the slave trade). He's cool with homosexuality, too. The Guardian began publishing in 1821; no doubt this Darcy read it.

Elizabeth Bennet, of course, has always been a liberal, and remains one here. She's the Keira Knightley version, low-voiced, sexily tanned, slender and girlish. Even though we know perfectly well throughout what will happen, the winning of her in the end is as moving and enjoyable as could be wished. Mr Darcy fans everywhere will welcome his Diary to the canon.

John Sutherland, The Financial Times

Maya Slater infuses Austen’s work with novelty. What would that Meryton ball look like from Darcy’s point of view? What were his “first impressions” (the original title of Austen’s novel) of Miss Bennet? What melted Darcy’s “prejudice” – sense, sensibility, or persuasion? Or lust?

Mr Darcy’s Diary boldly goes where Jane Austen never does: into the man-of-the-world’s world. It portrays him as a regency rogue who casually tumbles the chambermaid while his morning chocolate cools. Of an evening, he amuses himself at the bordello. Unlike Byron, his bosom companion, his tastes do not extend to sodomy, but the newly wed Mrs Elizabeth Darcy can look forward to an instructive honeymoon…

Joceline Bury, Jane Austen’s regency World

Maya Slater creates a convincing world for Fitzwilliam Darcy, not only following the narrative of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of its hero, but also roaming beyond the essentially female world of the novel into an engagingly rakish bachelor existence.

Witty and sardonic, Mr Darcy’s Diary pulls off the seemingly impossible trick of removing the reader’s certainty that all will be resolved happily. Darcy’s bouts of gloom and doubt, not to mention his dalliances with various nubile females, give this clever novel a satisfying tension. Although we know exactly how it must end, we’re not quite sure how the happy couple will get there. With a supporting cast that includes the irrepressibly outrageous Lord Byron, this is a real cappuccino of a book – deliciously frothy, but with a definite kick.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose

How did author Maya Slater woo a Janeite who openly admits contempt for renovators who sex up or steal Austen’s good name? She actually did not have to. Once I abandoned my expectations of reading another prequel, sequel or re-telling bent on ripping off Jane Austen’s stories or characters, I realized that this was not Elizabeth Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, but Mr. Darcy’s, and Maya Slater was not renovating Jane or sexing up Lizzy but telling a man’s story. What other authors have attempted in their Darcy re-tellings by mirroring Jane Austen’s text word-for-word, has been replaced by sheer creativity and respect. Slater expands our understanding of the plot and characters that Jane Austen introduced, and makes Mr. Darcy’s Diary unique and yet blend-able to the original story. It made me laugh-out-loud repeatedly as she expounded on the smarmy antics of Caroline Bingley whose continued attempts to worm her way into Darcy’s affections fall flat, fume over the officious arrogance of his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, hiss at the deceit and destruction caused by that lout George Wickham, and revel in a love story that I read as freshly and intensely as the first time this writer experienced the original many years ago. That, gentle Austen readers, is quite an achievement. Even Mr. Darcy might consider Maya Slater worthy of inclusion in “the half a dozen women in the whole range of (his) acquaintance that are truly accomplished.”

Read the full review here.

Molière: The Misanthrope, Tartuffe and Other Plays

Times Literary Supplement

This volume… will be of value to theatregoers and performers, as well as to the readers at whom the World’s Classics series is primarily aimed… Most previous translators have used the iambic pentameter, but one has only to read Maya Slater’s translations aloud to discover how her choice of the alexandrine, Molière’s own metre, has enabled her to produce versions that are much more successful in giving the reader immediate access to both plot and character unencumbered by any preconceived ideas of interpretation… Slater completes her impressive achievement by including sparkling versions of the two polemical plays in prose… Both prose and verse translations do full justice to Molière’s wit and ingenuity, and make reading this book a highly enjoyable experience.

The Craft of La Fontaine

Times Literary Supplement

Another book on La Fontaine? Yes, and one well worth reading, for, although the territory seems familiar, it is undoubtedly enriched by the surefooted, subtle and suggestive approach presented here… informed by a wide reading of the literature and a deep knowledge of the poet’s sources. Maya Slater invites us to share her delight at discovering hidden patterns and images in the Fables, which modify our reading.

The French Review

Written in a clear, elegant, lively style, this book is consonant with the spirit of the Fables… The author has captured in a concise and compelling way the essence of the fabulist’s art. It will take its place in university libraries, on the personal shelves of seventeenth century scholars and their students, of admiring readers and devotees of the fabulist.

Humour in the Works of Proust

Notes and Queries

It is salutary and useful… to find a study of Proust devoted to an important aspect of his work that has been oddly rather neglected over the years – its comic content. Dr Slater’s consideration of Humour in the Works of Proust is … an excellent contribution.

Boris Pasternak, Family Correspondence 1921-1960

Robert Conquest

An international readership will welcome this new collection of Boris Pasternak's continually fascinating family correspondence, which gives us the opportunity to delve deeply into the whole of his thoughts and feelings over a poetic and heroic lifetime, culminating in Doctor Zhivago and the final virulent challenge to his genius and his courage.