Review: The Bar Sinister

Review: The Bar SinisterThe Bar Sinister: Pride and Prejudice Continues... by Linda Berdoll
Series: Darcy & Elizabeth #1
Published by There It Is on December 1, 1999
Genres: Historical, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 467
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

What readers are saying
"Whoa, Darcy!"
"Some parts are hilarious and some a walk on the wild side for Austen characters. Curl up and enjoy!"
"Tells the tale I always wanted to the Darcys lived happily ever after..."
"The only fault I found with this book was that it ended."
Every woman wants to be Elizabeth Bennet Darcy-beautiful, gracious, universally admired, strong, daring and outspoken-a thoroughly modern woman in crinolines.
And every woman will fall madly in love with Mr. Darcy-tall, dark and handsome, a nobleman and a heartthrob whose virility is matched only by his utter devotion to his wife.
Their passion is consuming and idyllic-essentially, they can't keep their hands off each other-through a sweeping tale of adventure and misadventure, human folly and numerous mysteries of parentage.
Hold on to your bonnets! This sexy, epic, hilarious, poignant and romantic sequel to Pride and Prejudice goes far beyond Jane Austen.

I am a huge Jane Austen fan, so much so that I read every bit of published fan fiction that I can get my hands on (often to disastrous results). Some are decent, but most are pretty awful. Of those, some truly fall beneath the heading ‘atrocious.’ Berdoll’s The Bar Sinister is one such. She is one of the Austen-inspired writers who attempts to write in Jane Austen’s style, by which I mean she pretty much refuses to use any words shorter than three syllables. She also likes to pretend that she knows foreign languages, especially Latin.

I have found that the best of the Austen-inspired works do not try too hard to capture her style of language and merely to do right by the characters. The reason that this is better is that these authors are modern; they are not from Jane Austen’s time and her language does not come naturally. An author using words she does not know in an effort to sound classy and scholarly has the reverse effect. Words are misused and sentences fail to flow, as words have so obviously been substituted in for the originals after perusal of thesauri and dictionaries. I include here a sample of Berdoll’s diction from the first page of the book:

“As each and every muddy mile they travelled diminished the distance betwixt Elisabeth and the awesome duty that awaited her as mistress of such a vast estate, she became ever more uneasy. It was not that she had only then fully comprehended what awaited her, for she had. At least as comprehensibly as was possible.
Hitherto, there had been the excitement of the wedding, and moreover, the anticipation of connubial pleasures with Mr. Darcy that buffered her from the daunting devoir that lay ahead.”

These sentences are fairly mild as her language goes, but they get the idea across. Berdoll will never use the word between if she can say betwixt. She will also refer to the act of love making by every imaginable, old-timey term possible (and some that should not have been, such as many of her forays into Latin). I will finish complaining about the writing momentarily after an illustration that Berdoll does not know what words mean. On page 353 of my edition, Lizzy mouths I love you to Darcy and “he wordlessly said, ‘I know.'” Wordlessly means that there should be know quotation marks, you dolt! Her writing makes the book, already one of the most absurd stories I have encountered, and makes the book possibly the worst I have ever read from cover to cover.

The story itself is truly atrocious. Lizzy and Darcy, when not having sex (a shockingly rare occurrence), encounter numerous personal difficulties: an insane footman who kidnaps Elisabeth and tries to rape her, a poor shot by Mr. Collins that nearly deafens Darcy permanently, a miscarriage and a stillbirth that nearly kills Elisabeth. And this is what happens to the characters Berdoll likes.

Berdoll hates Bingley. She must, because she has decided that he and Jane do not have a good marriage. Where Darcy and Lizzy are constantly soaked in various forms of connubial pleasure (which sometimes involve a mirror), Bingley does not manage to actually deflower Jane until after a few nights of marriage, during which he missed. There are no words. But, rake that he obviously is, Bingley manages not only to impregnate Jane (five or more times), but to also get a poor woman sick with tuberculosis pregnant with a bastard. Seriously. This happened.

Collins dies after getting chased into a pond by some bees. He lands upside down, gets stuck and drowns. For real real. Colonel Fitzwilliam falls in love with Elisabeth, which he feels guilty about. His guilt propels him to volunteer to go fight Napoleon (honestly referred to as Nappy within the 450 pages of dreck I read through). Georgiana, who is in love with him, follows him, enlisting as a nurse. He gets a little bit blown up, but survives, thanks to Georgiana’s loving ministrations. When they finally return, brought back by an irate Darcy, they get married, because bum leg or not, Georgiana is preggers. Yup, shy wallflower Georgiana Darcy took charge and got herself a baby out of wedlock. I think not.

Wickham is found (supposedly posthumously) to be Darcy’s brother (maybe), since Darcy’s dad slept around (the sadness of which killed the former Mrs. Darcy). For this reason, Darcy donates money to Wickham and Lydia’s litter of brats. Despite the fact that Wickham fathered a son on a serving girl at Pemberley when he and Darcy were young (they both slept with the girl, who later had a ‘relationship’ with the crazy footman mentioned earlier) and that Wickham (unknowingly but still) shot and killed this progeny while deserting the army in France. And even so, the book ends with the news that he is still alive. Great. I would not have finished this suck-fest, if not for the sheer joy of ripping it apart (figuratively, although literally is also tempting).

P.S. This book was republished as Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, so avoid that too (or just stay away from this author in general).

P.P.S. Linda Berdoll, if Jane Austen were a vampire (as is the case in many books now), she would suck you dry with dispatch to prevent any further such disgrace being done to her characters.

One response to “Review: The Bar Sinister”

  1. bas1chs says:

    Thank you for posting the review. I am also a huge fan of Jane Austen and some authors really make magic while others obviously try too hard and miss the target. I will probably steer clear of this offering.

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