"When old Dr. Robinson, who had been Rector of Pemberley in Derbyshire for over fifty years, died one night in his sleep at the age of eighty-seven, a long life of little eventfulness and placid prosperity came to a not untimely end....Who could have foretold that Dr. Robinson, who had done nothing of note in all his lifetime should, by the common and natural act of dying, set in motion a train of events so strange, so startling, so far removed from probability, as to emulate the rioutous fancies of a disordered mind?" (1, 2)
You can read the first chapter online here. What can I say about this one? Me, the skeptic who remains ever-doubtful that the perfect sequel exists? I loved this one! I did! Last week, I talked about what I expected out of an Austen sequel..."I don't expect the writer to be Jane Austen. I don't expect her to try to channel Austen when she's writing. I don't expect her to match Austen's literary style or her wit. Just a teeny tiny smidgen of it is good. If she can capture just a small trace of the charm or humor (or both) then that's enough. What makes Austen likeable? Is it her focus on love and romance? Is it her focus on women's lives? Is it her focus on society? Is it her focus on class? Is it her focus on these often comical eccentrics? (Like Mr. Collins or Mrs. Jennings or Mrs. Bennet) Is it the fact that she was good at taking snapshots of her world? Of describing life as it was? Is it the fact that she develops so many characters all at once? Her books are never the story of one man and one woman falling in love. They are always so much more than that. There will never be a sequel that can capture anything and everything Austen was...as a writer. But I think the best of the lot will try to be multidimensional. Maybe not as widely as Austen herself was. But more than just one-dimensional."
This one delivers and then some. We've got a nice balance of Austen characters--Elizabeth, Darcy, Georgiana, Kitty, Lady Catherine, Anne, etc.--with new characters: Mr. Mortimer, Miss Robinson, Miss Sophia, Major Wakeford, Stephen Acworth, etc. This blending is so natural, so seamless that it just works. The story is simple: a new rector must be found to fill the parish/living. Mr. Darcy is looking for candidates--good candidates--to interview. The only thing he knows for certain--and Elizabeth agrees--is that it cannot, must not be filled by Mr. Collins! (He does apply for the job!) Temporarily, Mr. Mortimer is filling in as substitute preacher. But while Mr. Darcy feels he is good enough for that, the idea of him becoming the new rector is unlikely. But who will he find? One candidate after another fails to meet Mr. Darcy's standards. But then an old friend contacts him. This old friend has a brother, a younger brother, a young widower. A scholarly man who would be "perfect" for the job. A Mr. Stephen Acworth. Darcy sets off to interview him. And happens to come back with not one but two house guests: Stephen Acworth and Major Wakeford, a soldier who had at one time been quite chummy with him. But though this probation period--of six weeks--has been set in place, been promised, something about Stephen Acworth bothers Darcy. Is this his old sense of prejudice resurfacing? Or is Darcy onto something?
The story is of course more complex than that. It is filled with characters--all well-developed, all flawed, all human, some quite comical or eccentric--all have their own story to tell. There are visits, walks, parties, balls, declarations of love both proper and improper, and much much more. I don't want to say much more, but I don't want to say too little either. I highly recommend this one to skeptics everywhere. Who will like this book best? Those that love Jane Austen and who typically find modern sequels to be sickening. Who find that modern writers just don't get what Elizabeth and Darcy are about. Who will not like this book? If you're all about contemporary sequels that offer sex, sex, sex, and more sex...then this one will disappoint.
One other note: THIS IS NOT A GOTHIC BOOK. Despite the fact that it says "lightly" gothic. The point of the book is that it is an entertaining, sometimes comical, lightly romantic, moderately mysterious sequel.
Other reviews: Austenprose, Austenblog (who didn't like it at all), Curled Up,
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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