"The Murder of Mr. Wickham" by Claudia Gray

Well, I did read the whole book, which I kind of thought I wouldn't at one point.  And I'm glad I did, because the ending was reasonably satisfying.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham has a fun and clever premise: the characters from Jane Austen's six major novels are all related or know each other somehow.  George and Emma Knightley host a house party at Donwell Abbey to introduce Juliet Tilney, daughter of Emma's friends Henry and Catherine Tilney, to good society.  They invite Captain and Anne Wentworth, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy and their son Jonathon, Christopher and Marianne Brandon, and Edmund and Fanny Bertram.  Mr. Wickham invites himself.

It turns out that Mr. Wickham has swindled several of these characters out of quite a bit of money.  Other characters have their own reasons to despise or loathe him.  And someone kills him, eventually.  Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy team up to help the local magistrate, Frank Churchill, figure out whodunit.  

I really liked certain aspects of this book.  Jonathan Darcy is a high-functioning autistic person, maybe with Asperger's?  He's neurodivergent, anyway, and I thought he was portrayed very realistically and kindly.  I also liked how a lot of the characters interacted, because I also have fun imagining characters from different stories or even different authors interacting with each other.  So those aspects were great.

But, about halfway through the novel, it's revealed that Fanny's brother William is gay.  And, while homosexual activity dates back at least to the time of Abraham, and I am well aware that there undoubtedly were gay men in the Royal Navy in the early 1800s, this felt very much shoehorned into the story.  Fanny's keeping a secret about her brother is a plot point, but the secret could have been just about anything -- he could have deserted, mutinied (like the brother in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell), stolen something -- his secret isn't super important, just that fact that it exists.  So, making it this specific secret felt very much like pandering to the Woke mob that insists a book has to have LGBTQ+ rep in order to have worth.  It felt very much like Gray was smugly saying, "See?  I checked off that box, aren't you glad?"  

It wasn't good writing, in other words.  It pulled me straight out of the story, repeatedly, with its jarring modernity in regards to how both Fanny and Edmund reacted to it.  Fanny in particular wasn't accurate to the attitudes and social mores of the era, much less to the character from Austen's book, and I ended up skimming the rest of the book because I just couldn't get back into it properly.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for some not-very-detailed discussions of marital bedroom activities, an attempted seduction, and descriptions of a murder victim's body.  There wasn't any bad language, though.

2 comments:

  1. Meh. Sounds like a fun premise ruined by political correctness. :P

    ReplyDelete

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