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Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman...Review

About the book:
"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me." So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy's hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley's persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows -- as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.
Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen's original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy's past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.

I have yet to find an attempted Pride and Prejudice sequel to be worth my time. This novel is the first that really does the story justice. While this book isn't a sequel, it's a wannabe adaptation: the first of three novels which basically retell the story of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of Mr. Darcy. A viewpoint that Austen readers have wondered about since the novel was published. This one ends after the ball at Netherfield, with Darcy and Miss Bingley conspiring to remove Charles from Hertfordshire.

While Aidan manages to capture some of the language of the time, she doesn't attempt to be Jane Austen and I appreciated that. Most of Darcy's story is conjecture. By necessity it is imagined, but the author has a good grasp of Mr. Darcy. Her interpretations are believable. I enjoyed the little details, such as when Darcy purchases books for his sister, one of them is Sense and Sensibility. That was a fun little addition. His interactions with his valet and household staff serve to portray him as the kind master his housekeeper alludes to in the original novel.

Aidan is most definitely a fan of the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. (Thank goodness for that, because I can't abide anything that refers to the Keira Knightley farce.) It's very easy to picture the scenes from the film as you read the book. One even wonders if her adaptations come from Colin Firth's Darcy, more than Jane Austen's Darcy. Still, I can recommend it with no reservations.

Thanks to half.com for having a copy I could purchase.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/08

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. "Aidan is most definitely a fan of the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. (Thank goodness for that, because I can't abide anything that refers to the Keira Knightley farce.)"

    Amen to that.

    I'll have to check this book out.

  2. The idea of this book (and others like it) makes me sick. I don't like books that try to play off other books in this way.

    Oh, but I don't mind visual interpretations of literary works. It's a different media. For that reason, I prefer the Keira Knightley version of the movie. I think they did on screen what Austen did on paper. The other one is great, but if I'm going to spend the time to watch the longer version, I'd rather just read the book.

  3. I haven't really liked any P&P interpretations that I've read. This one surprised me though. I still think the original story stands on its own and I don't think it needs to be revisited. But, like I said, this one surprised me.

    I have to respectfully disagree about the Knightley version though. If you took her out of the film, it would be good. There are points to it that I enjoyed. But she was a horrible Elizabeth, and she ruined what was otherwise a pretty good film. I still don't like it as much as the A&E version or even the 1980 version, but it was ok. I think the A&E version is much more true to what Austen put on paper.

  4. I read this book too and mostly enjoyed it. I think Aidan made Darcy too feminine, worrying about what he was going to say to Elizabeth way too much. And I agree about the Keira Knightly version. I couldn't get halfway through it. zit was too hollywood-ized and it portrayed the entire Bennet family almost like they were white trash, instead of a gentleman's household.
    I haven't read Duty and Desire, but I heard These Three Remain (I think that's the 3rd books title) is the best out of the three. Duty is pretty thick with religion apparently.

  5. I read these books on your recommendation and loved every minute of them. I thought the writing was good. I liked Darcy better than I did in the Austen P&P. When I finished these I actually went back to read the Austen P&P and then I missed Darcy so much I read book 1 and 3 of this series again. I read them from the library first but then wanted my own copys because I know I will want to read them again sometime. I admit that I am a P&P junkie. None of the sequels have been worth my time but this one. Thanks for the review.