Chances are you’ve had to read literature in your mother-tongue and perhaps in a second and/or third language (Dutch and English in my case). Perhaps you recall not liking the books, because they were forced on you. Lucky for me, most of the times I liked the books I had to read or chose to put on my reading list. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) was one of my favourites and it still is. I reread it at least once every year. As 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the novel, I have entered the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Austenprose. My goal is to read or watch 12 P&P inspired books and movies. So far I’ve seen the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, the BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (with the famous wet shirt scene) and the spin-off Lost in Austen, which was incredibly funny. I’ve also followed Lizzie Bennet, the protagonist of the story, in her YouTube vlog ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries‘. Yes, Lizzie Bennet knows how to use the computer and social media!
But, finally, I’ve also read some books! A trilogy, to be precise, by Pamela Aidan. Going by the name ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman‘, the trilogy gives unbiased view on Mr Darcy, quite unlike Elizabeth Bennet gives us. We get an insight into his character and his reasoning, and we even get to know what Darcy is doing when he is away from Netherfield (remember, he convinced his best friend Bingley to stop his courting of Lizzie’s sister Jane). Many things we never would have given much thought. But then, we only know the story written from Lizzie’s point of view…
Pamela Aidan has done an amazing job in telling the story the other way around. Darcy sees an intelligent young woman with a pair of fine, sparkling eyes and the wit and courage to oppose him. He is attracted to her, and the playfulness she displays indicated she might feel something similar. After all, he is a very eligible bachelor with his 10,000 per annum, and he’s at an age he really should be looking to settle. Prejudice all over again, because we know what Elizabeth thinks. Darcy is the most disagreeable man ever to live, is proud and conceited, and most importantly, he has destroyed the happiness of Jane by talking Bingley into leaving her. No wonder she rejected him when he asked her to marry, perceiving him so, but Darcy was caught by surprise. We accompany Darcy as he tries to regain his composure (I don’t want to give away too much about this, as it is not told in the original novel… Get the books and read it for yourself) and comes to terms with his rejection. He begins to recognize how his pride has hindered him and reflects on what he has done to truly deserve the answers Elizabeth has given him. His sister Georgiana, whom we read little about in Pride and Prejudice, also plays a role in Darcy’s change from proud to likable. We all know how it ends. Darcy has developed, his character has changed and he tries to make amends. With success, lucky for us, faithful readers. I’m happy every time when they finally do get together 😀
Apart from narrating the well known story from a completely different point of view, the author has succeeded in keeping the trilogy close to the original novel in style and character. The political ideas of the time are apparent in the trilogy, more than in Pride and Prejudice, and the intercourse between people is consequently quite formal. Darcy’s pride and prejudice play a major role (which we already knew), and the way he realizes he has (had) these flaws and tries to deal with this is the strongest part of the series. I rated the books either 3 or 4 stars out of five, because, unfortunately, the books did get boring at times. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice as I have, be sure to read the story the other way around and get ‘An assembly such as this’ to start with!