A Review From the desk of Shelley DeWees…of The Uprising.
I am thinking of enlisting. One of my acquaintances happened to recommend his regiment to me this morning, and as I have nothing better to do I believe I will join. It will get me away from London, where my creditors are once again pressing me, and take me into Hertfordshire, a place where I am not known. Then I can begin again, and at the very least, run up some new bills. And at the most…There will be impressionable young women in Meryton, no doubt, and they will all be susceptible to a charming and handsome young man in a red coat.”
So says that feisty George Wickham, with such a feisty future ahead of him, in the quazi-coming-of-age tale Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange. Although you may think this little novella is going to give a sneaky glimpse into the wooing of Lydia Bennet or perhaps a strange view of Wickham’s wicked scheming, alas, it doesn’t. In fact, Wickham’s Diary has next to zero connection the Bennet tale (you know the one I mean) and can be more easily likened to the history of George Wickham and his family.
The introduction on the back of the book explains, “He wasn’t always this cold-hearted.” But…um…well, according to this, he actually was. He grows up, as you, a learned reader, already know, in the shadow of Darcy and his sweet sister Georgiana, as the son of the steward with nearly nothing to his own name. Childhood almost-friendship with Darcy withers away in favor of rabid jealously, and Wickham decides at a young age that the situation just isn’t fair. “Why should I be beneath him?” he asks. “I am just as handsome as he is; I am just as intelligent, even though he works harder at his books; and I am just as amusing; in fact, I dare say I am a great deal more amusing, for Fitzwilliam is so proud and he will not take the trouble to entertain other people. Yet altogether he is no better than me, when he grows up he will inherit Pemberley and I will inherit nothing.” Tough break Georgie, but hey, that’s life. Regency life. Now of course he could take what he’s been given, which is truly not a bad situation, and apply himself toward a worthy, amiable path and a generally secure future. But as we know, he’s the villain and must therefore take the lowest possible road: planning, scheming, and plotting against everyone and everything, never blaming himself when things go awry. He looks around every corner for someone to exploit, usually while still experiencing success with his last victim, pocketing their money and breaking their hearts with no qualms. He’s conniving and rude. He’s spoiled and foolhardy. He is, naturally, a scoundrel.
I’d say that’s pretty cold-hearted behavior.
The reader is briefly shown the world of George Wickham as he works his way up the “Biggest Jerk in the Universe” ladder, tossing people aside who stand in the way of his ultimate goal to marry an heiress and be done with it. Darcy has long taken his own path, only reappearing to pay Wickham the value of the living he’s denounced and then quickly evaporating out of the picture, never to be seen again. Though I enjoyed the interesting and albeit unhealthy relationship Wickham has with his mother, I found myself disappointed that this teeny weeny 12-dollar novel ended without exploring Wickham’s character in any in-depth sense. The reader learns a bit about his motivations for villainy, yes, but nothing much about him as a person. No one commits a crime against humanity without some measure of mental back-and-forth…didn’t he ever have second thoughts? Blank pages abound in the book itself, and the type is shamefully over-sized.
The phrase that comes to mind with Wickham’s Diary is “hastily-written.” It’s a fair read and represents some of the author’s good attributes. But considering the 2 hours you’ll spend with it, you might want to save your 12 dollars.