Monday, October 24, 2005

Mr. Darcy's Daughters

Mr. Darcy's Daughters

I just finished reading a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Normally I'm wary of any book that tries to copy an author's style in a sequel. There is a book out at Inklings that immediately follows the wedding, and as much as I can tell from the chapter I perused in the bookstore, it's just about them having a lot of sex. Ruined my pristine viewing and reading experience.

In Mr. Darcy's Daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy don't even appear. They have been called on a diplomatic mission to Turkey. Elizabeth accompanies her husband, and the five Darcy daughters go to stay with Colonel Fitzwilliam and his wife Fanny to spend a year in Town for the Season. Sometimes the writing came dangerously close to be a rehash of the original book. Daughter number one is the beauty. In personality she is more like Mary than Jane, at first merely concerned for appearances and decency, but later she becomes an evangelical and spends most of her time at meetings and handing out tracts. Daughter number two is not a beauty, but has dark hair and "fine eyes." The majority of the narrative focuses around her time in London. She is almost engaged to a Sir Sydney, but upon being enlightened about his extracurricular hobbies she puts an end to it, causing plenty of gossip. Daughters three and four are twins, with characters similar to their Aunt Lydia (who also makes several appearances). Their fates are similar in the end, though not so dramatic, with Uncle Gardiner again having to rescue his neices. Daughter number five is a musician under the care of a governness whose attentions are more focused on her writing than her ward.

Several original Pride and Prejudice characters appear or are referenced. Lady Warren (formerly Caroline Bingley) sends her son on a mission to bring the Darcy girls down a peg. Mr. and Mrs. Gardener, whose fortunes have risen and removed the from Cheapside, are co-guardians with the Fitzwilliams. Mr. Bennet is taking care of the Darcy sons at Pemberly. Lydia, formerly Wickham, has been widowed and remarried, and now runs a rather dodgy salon in her home. The Bingley's reside primarily in the country.

All in all it was an interesting read. Elizabeth Aston does a good balance of introducing the flavor of Jane Austen without trying to copy her style of writing. Some of the subjectmatter is a little modern, but it was handled well. The only original character that comes off badly in the new version is Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was charming and easy formerly, and now is rather harsh and pedantic. And not very considerate of his wife. All in all, a good read. Not quite up to the level of the original, but it stays true to Austen's story.