Project Darcy: A Review

indexProject Darcy: A Review

Jane Odiwe writes from the heart. This is evident to anyone who has ever read one of her novels, but particularly so in her newest work, Project Darcy. Published just in time for Christmas, it is surely her gift to Austen fans everywhere. The story centers on a group of friends who join an archeological expedition at the site of Steventon Rectory. The five girls mirror the Bennet sisters in personality and even name choices, and just as in Pride and Prejudice, Ellie (our heroine) and Jess share a special bond. The purpose of the dig is to discover the actual layout of the Austen’s home, and it is clear from the writing that Ms. Odiwe is intimately familiar with the Austen haunts mentioned throughout the book, from Steventon to Ashe and Deane, Bath and London. Relationships among the other workers and staff form the backdrop of a fairly straightforward retelling of Pride and Prejudice, cleverly repackaged though, in order to drop twists and turns throughout, and laugh out loud moments at just the right time. This is, however, a time travel story, as well. Like her previous book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, Ellie has the ability to travel between the 21st century and Regency England. Unlike the other book, however, these time jumps are uncontrolled by temporal items, and are brought on by the proximity of so many Austen locations. In Ellie’s jumps, she literally becomes Jane Austen, creating a story within a story, as she relives many of the poignant memories of Austen’s past, and seeks to shed light on her oh-so-mysterious relationship with Tom Lefroy. Although the archeological dig takes place in summer, Ellie’s jumps, for the most part, return her to the winter of 1795/96 when we know, from Jane Austen’s own letters, that she met Tom while he was visiting his aunt. The descriptions of Christmas at Steventon and the Manydown  ball are delightful, and it is fun to fill in the gaps in what we do know, fleshing out a story of love won and lost. Traces of Austen’s “later” works are visible and it is clear that Ms. Odiwe let her imagination have full reign in giving Jane the romantic past that we all might wish for her. While many scenes are reminiscent of Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane, we are also treated to the history of Jane’s turquoise ring which came to public attention this past year. I will not reveal the details of the story of Project Darcy here, or how it all works out in the end, but reading it felt like a treasure hunt with fun “Easter Eggs” on every page. As always, she manages to insert clever homages to our favorite author in every corner. Clearly familiar with Jane Austen’s life, Ms. Odiwe has spent much time reimagining what Austen’s life might have been like “between the lines”—her artwork, and first book, Effusions of Fancy, no doubt laid the groundwork for this novel, which reads like both a modern take on Pride and Prejudice and a first person biography of Jane Austen. And while we may know the how both of these stories wind down, the ending was not predictable, and kept me guessing until the very last page.   Ms. Odiwe has stayed true to the facts as we know them. All else is speculation and imagination, and as her readers delight to know firsthand, she has a vivid imagination. For the first time, Ms. Odiwe has included a scene of more adult style material, which makes this novel unsuitable for the young adult audience, however even this is presented in such a light that it is impossible to determine if it “really happened”, or was simply the result of a feverish dream. All in all, Project Darcy is an enjoyable read, perfect for curling up with during the dead of winter, transporting you to Regency England's Christmas, and reminding us that the warmth of English summer will return again.
  • Price: £8.99
  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (11 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954572238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954572235

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family.

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