The ocean of Jane Austen’s fan fiction is wide and never-ending. Fan fiction isn’t easy and following in the footsteps of a great genius can be catastrophic. Just look at two examples of two excellent female writers who are great favorites of mine. They both tried to take on the eternal characters of Pride and Prejudice and use them, and both, in my opinion, have failed spectacularly: P.D. James’s utterly boring Death comes to Pemberley and Collen McCullough’s horrendous The independence of Miss Mary Bennet.
Of course, there are the opposite examples of the original and well written Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graham-Smith, and Curtis Sittenfeld’s truly delightful Eligible. The book I am reviewing today is one of the more successful endeavors : a fun to read fan fiction. Pride and Promiscuity- The lost sex scenes of Jane Austen Published in 2003 is a collection of very short takes on different parts of the six published novels, and a short story touching The Watsons- an unfinished novel.
Jane at Netherfield is the hilarious beginning to the whole booklet and sets the right tone. It captures the original spirit of the relationship between Jane and the two sisters of Mr. Bingley while adding to it the promiscuity promised from the title.
Another cute little story, also a take on Pride and Prejudice and it is my favorite, is of Charlotte getting a present from Lady Catherine containing an old gown and a whip. Charlotte soon puts it to good use on Mr. Collins.
A great take on Emma is the episode (told here for the first time, of course) of Frank Churchill visiting a stiff, rigid Mr. Knightley. Churchill is his own charming self, talking endlessly of Emma, Jane Fairfax and the billiard stick in Mr. Knightley’s hands. The latter gets even more rigid, and it’s both funny and totally hot.
Mansfield Park’s Play is brimming with sex innuendos and naughty scenes in the original book. Here it gets an even more outrageous treatment. When Tom and Edmund try to fix on a suitable play they go through a funny list of rowdy titles (For example, Edmund asks for a play with no women in it and Tom suggests “The three lonesome deck-hands, or A Romance of the West Indies”). When the play “The curious cousins” is picked we have a delightful scene of a reluctant Fanny made to wear a French maid outfit and enter into a very real playacting with Edmund and Miss Crawford.
I found that the better stories dealt with the supporting characters. Thus, the bit that describes what Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy did while waiting for her slow walking aunt and uncle is not that great while the little story of Henry and Mary Crawford fascination with each other is much better. All in all, a delightful work that doesn’t shame the original but rather makes one wish to re-read it.