When the Emperor was Divine was the required reading for the college where I work and although I do think it was a good choice, I feel that there are other novels out there which tell this story better. (Such as Snow Falling on Cedars, and this story wasn’t even the main storyline in that book.)
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this book and I did not get along. It wasn’t bad, per say, but it definitely wasn’t good. It was a very short read and I read it in three sittings on the train to and from work, but there was just something about it that I didn’t enjoy.
I’m starting to think that it might be related to the fact that it was chosen as the required reading and I felt that it wasn’t very challenging. I do believe it highlight’s a portion of World War II which many people aren’t aware of, or never learned about, but the writing style and the novel were very basic. Given I didn’t attend the speaker series, this could be a total misinterpretation of the novel, but I feel that a required reading for college students should be more challenging. However, that being said there were parts of the novel that were really well done, so don’t think it was a completely horrible work.
After thoroughly enjoying The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book as well! It also doesn’t hurt that I always forget how much I love the Brontës when I’m not reading about them and then as soon as I start reading about them I quickly fall back in love with them. I’m super excited that I’ve got Wuthering Heights to re-read again this year!
The only other Brontë fan-fiction I’ve read was Becoming Jane Eyre in February of last year. I remember enjoying it and of course there were overlaps with this book, as this book covers a lot broader swath of time than the last. This book covers a long period of time and through flashbacks even includes a lot of the Brontës’ youth. It is noteworthy, although not shocking at all, that there are many similarities in writing style and stories in the two books. We know a lot more about the Brontë siblings than we know about say Austen or the more reclusive female writers.
However, as with Missing Manuscript, James’ has a distinct ability to write as and embody Jane Austen. Many Austen fan-fiction novelists are able to mimic Austen, but I don’t feel are able to get into her psyche as well as James’ has shown she is capable over the last two novels. James takes snippets of fact and builds amazingly detailed stories around them and as a reader I couldn’t help but appreciate her ability to spin a believable story around the most basic and minimal facts.
Nearly two full years later I finally got around to reading The Darcys and the Bingleys, and thankfully it was not at ALL what I expected. I mean it does help that Elizabeth and Darcy have a son named Geoffrey in this novel, so OF COURSE it’s going to get my vote! The blurb made me think this book might be more of a raunchy sequel to Pride and Prejudice, thankfully it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it might be. As this book has been on my bookshelf since December 2011, it counts as a bonus book for my 2013 Mount TBR reading challenge.
If I went with just what the back cover says (it’s actually factually wrong, which I find fascinating – I guess the book was edited after the writing of the blurb and it was not kept updated) I would’ve honestly believed this to be a raunchy sequel. It talks about Darcy and Bingley discovering the Kama Sutra and about Elizabeth and Jane eventually discovering it. Although this is true and all four of them are aware of the book and there are references to it here and there throughout the story, it is not the primary plot device. It only serves to get us through the wedding nights and then as a humorous interloper occasionally. I felt this novel could’ve been better without this crutch.
What a fun novel! I am so glad I stumbled across this novel and I cannot wait to read more of Syrie James’ works. I can’t remember where I first read about it or why I thought I had to read it, but I checked it out of the library last month and have waited patiently to read it as I trekked through Les Misérables I once again, however, tricked myself into not knowing ANYTHING about the book and did not realize that James wrote a novel in a novel so that was pleasantly unexpected.
I think what I enjoyed most about this novel was the contrast between the missing manuscript The Stanhopes and the modern story of those who find the manuscript. The two novels were intertwined enough to make it interesting, but not so much to make it confusing (I’m looking at you Ms. Atwood! [Even though I still love you and The Blind Assassin was phenomenal]).