Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reading Free-For-All: For Darkness Shows the Stars

I know, I know I failed life on Music Monday (it was job interview Monday for me instead) and there hasn't been a new Weigh in Wednesday put up today so that's out.

But instead you get my thoughts on Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars.

I was supposed to have started this books days ago. I didn't. I started it this afternoon. And read the whole thing in one sitting. Have I ever mentioned that Persuasion is one of my favorites? Sadly, it's been awhile since I've read it.

Anyway, I heard about this book a while ago, before it came out, on Twitter. It seemed pretty anticipated. I'd bought Rampant a little before after I read Diana Peterfreund's story in Zombies vs. Unicorns. Admittedly, I still haven't read it. I didn't know anything about For Darkness Shows the Stars aside from the cover being absolutely beautiful. I have two lists in my phone. One of books I'm really looking forward to and one of book I've heard about that looked cool. Knowing nothing about it aside from it was pretty and other people were excited about it I put For Darkness Shows the Stars on the latter.

It stayed there for awhile. I thought about the book a couple of times. Looked at it contemplatively when I saw it but for some reason I never picked it up to read what it was about. Then one day I felt like buying books and it was sitting there and I picked it up and read the inside flap. I read thinking "This sounds a lot like..." and then I hit the line where it said it was based on Persuasion. That was it I bought it.

I made sure it came to Boston with me and everything.

I read it today. I loved it.

It's such a wonderful adaptation of Persuasion. It's so different and then so similar that it was a delight because I knew the basics of what was going to happen but I was still interested to see how it all played out. The differences were enough that I didn't feel like I was reading the same story. The language was just enough Austen-esque to keep the romance feeling that's always in Austen's work but wouldn't alienate anyone who is intimidated by it. The spirit of the story is still wholly intact.

Anne Elliot has always been a favorite of mine. As a matter of fact in college we had a mud volleyball team named Jane Austen's Mafia (we were terrible, by the way) and I was Anne Elliot. She's just so level-headed and practical and I sort of loved that. I can definitely be fanciful and snarky around people who are exceedingly fanciful I tend to revert to being level-headed.

That's me on the end. Surprise!

Elliot is such a faithful Anne. She, like the book is faithful in spirit but just updated enough to work for the story. Elliot is everything I love about Anne. She's steadfast, responsible, hardworking, and a little insecure. Some of the issues Elliot deals with are a bit grander and more base than those Anne does. She struggles against what she's been told is right. Things have to change, she knows that and she cared about those in her charge but she can't quite work out how to change things without betraying the values instilled in her since her childhood. The issues between Elliot and Kai go beyond that of just class.

Which brings me to Kai. I liked Kai, I didn't totally swoon over him but I liked him. But I never really swooned over Wentworth until The Letter. (It deserves the caps. Oh God that letter has ruined me forever) And as wonderful a job as Peterfreund does of adapting the letter no body could ever top The Letter. But Kai also comes off a little more passionate throughout Darkness. A lot of that is due to the issues at hand. There's a little more at stake than just their love. But I loved his dedication and fire.

There were a few really good moments between the two. I loved when she threw him out of the barn. It was wonderful. But Diana Peterfreund made all of these moments wonderful without having either of them throw the other against the wall. Even though those are the scenes everyone tends to point out as their favorites I loved that she did that because that's how an Austen should be. But they still have this complex relationship of longing to be with the other and doing everything they can to avoid it. They want to hurt each other and are incredibly damaged by one another.

I mentioned the bigger issues a few times. I think the way they were depicted were really kind of cool. They're so...unAusten that at first I was a little thrown. Issues of genetic enhancements and how far is too far. When does it stop being about helping people? Can people change? They're such heavy discussions. There was a time or two that I felt a little overwhelmed by the weight of them. It became a bit distracting at times but at the same time they had to be issues that would drown the characters. Even so, as big as the issues between Anne and Wentworth were during Austen's time these are, in my opinion, different because they're a little more fundamental.

I thought the use of letters was incredibly clever. They started off so juvenile and cute and morph into arguments and then longing. I love that Elliot hangs them up in the barn and reluctance to show Kai. They're so personal and they did such a good job of telling the story of Kai and Elliot without throwing it at us. There was so much raw honesty in them that worked so well given their ages at the time.

Peterfreund does such a beautiful job of developing her world. There is so much to it that fills out the characters. Even as a romantic I couldn't blame Elliot for her decision not to run off with Kai. Her motives are so honest. And at the same time I couldn't blame Kai for being wounded. I was startled and delighted by how much went into it. The birthing houses and barracks and all of it. It's terrible and so masterfully orchestrated.

Since this post was pretty much a love letter to the book it's probably no surprise that it gets a rating of: Beyond Epic.

I just loved it. It was such a masterful retelling of one of my favorites.

Next I had intended to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower but after this I think I need to reread Persuasion first. So, we'll see.

Have any of you read it? Didn't you love it? Did you think it was faithful to Austen?

Until later, ducks.

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