"Mr. Darcy's Diary"

by Maya Slater

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels. I read it when I was about 18, as the first in my (short-lived) undertaking to learn more of the classics (and well before, I might add, the popularisation via that serialisation). I bought an old hardback, large print edition that was being removed from library stock. Although helpfully cheap, it had what I considered at the time to be unnecessarily large, overly girly full page illustrations and as a result I was very embarrassed to be seen reading it in public. Needless to say, I still have the book and love the illustrations now (although sadly I can't find any online). I still read it at least once a year, I guess.

Obviously there's now a minor industry in P&P spin-offs, including any number of novels. I've tried a few of them but mostly they are very poor. However, I saw someone reading this book on a train and it piqued my interest, and last week I finally found it in the library.

The book is, of course, the same central story, but told from the perspective of the hero rather than the heroine. (There's some half-hearted pretence about this being a *real* diary found in a bureau and that therefore the whole story is not fiction after all.) Fitzwilliam Darcy doesn't actually appear that much in Jane Austen's novel, being mostly absent doing something mysterious about managing his estates or some such. This book ties together many of the questions that crop up around his behaviour, such as why he returns to Pemberley early. It also gives many interesting details of his life in London, which I enjoyed (though I can't say how historically accurate they are).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Searching around The Republic Of Pemberley, I found that there are in fact many versions of Darcy's diary, and I have to say I'm tempted to try another.


"Night Of The Living Dad"

by Sam Delaney

I didn't mean to restrict myself to reading books with puns for titles, it just worked out like that. I found this in the library while I was supervising K & Z in the kids' section. There's a few shelves of books for adults - 1001 Baby Names You Must Use Before You Die, How To Realise Your Child's Inner Beethoven, that sort of thing - and this memoir was in there. I think it would more properly belong in "Biography" but actually it fits into that odd category of books that Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman have made their own: comedic but not comedy, travelling but not travelogue, biographical but not biography. It even has a quote from Danny Wallace on the front.

Sam Delaney - who, it turns out, is current editor of Heat magazine, not that I knew this until I started writing this review - writes about his experience of fatherhood, from the initial twinkle in his eye to about a year after the birth. The style is highly reminiscent of Danny Wallace (no wonder there's that quote on the front) but lacks the appealing naivety that makes books such as Yes Man or Friends Like These so enjoyable. Instead it has a more world-weary cynicism, which, while occasionally funny, I found rather repetitious towards the end of the book. That's not to say there isn't a whole host of immediately recognisable situations in the book though; maybe I just found it too close to home!

Overall, an interesting diversion but not a book I'd read again or particularly recommend to others.



by Christopher Brookmyre

Second in my coincidental trilogy of punning titles is this satire of religion and its place in society. Being Brookmyre, it's also a very dark comedy thriller that takes numerous side-swipes at other attitudes along the way.

The action centres on a school trip away in an activity centre in (of course) Scotland, which just happens to be on land above a highly secret military installation where unprecedented experiments are taking place. Inevitably, the two come together in a very unexpected way - I won't reveal how, since you might want to read the book.

Like most of Brookmyre's novels, there is plenty of action, comedic moments and quite a few deaths. Unlike most other of his novels, however, it doesn't have an unambiguous happy ending. Most of his books are, for all the attitude and black comedy, pure "Hollywood", to use William Goldman's definition of a Hollywood film as one in which the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Pandaemonium is not Hollywood. The body count is substantially higher than his other books and it's not all bad guys either. At the end, the establishment prevails.

One of the things I like most about his stories are that they are pure escapism - partly because of the Hollywood nature of the plots - and although this is darker it is just as entertaining. This is the second time I've read it and I enjoyed it both times.


"Adventures On The High Teas"

by Stuart Maconie

In which "the UK’s best-selling travel writer of non-TV tie-in books" (really, more than Bryson?) ambles around the middle of England looking for, well, middle England.

I have a lot of time for Stuart Maconie and greatly enjoy his radio shows, primarily with Mark Radcliffe - and not just because Radcliffe is such a superb broadcaster that he makes everyone else sound good too - but also some of his solo stuff.  He knows his music back-to-front and is very amusing, often ready with a quip or a gentle joke.

However, while his wit makes for good radio, I think that extended to book length it results in a slight lack of substance. I've read all three of his books now (the other two being Cider With Roadies and Pies And Prejudice - all hail the pun!) and they are all similar in style; vignettes and anecdotes connected by a theme, which makes them quite good for dipping into if you have a spare half an hour, but a little disjointed if you want to read for longer.  They are good for brief pre-sleep bedtime reading, though I don't want to imply that the writing is sleep-inducing!

The reviewer's comparisons with Bill Bryson are well made - if a trifle lazy, since both write amusing travel, easy-to-read travel books - but while I could happily re-read most of Bryson's books, I'm not sure I'd bother with this one.  Having said that, I did enjoy it and laughed out loud on more than one occasion.

And I should also give credit where it's due - reading it has inspired me to start writing again.  I haven't done a book review for a while!