For each of the last few summers, I’ve read a Jane Austen novel. I usually take whichever one I’m reading with me on the plane to Europe: Emma to London, Pride and Prejudice to Spain. Later this summer, I’ll be teaching Persuasion, so I was going to read that, but I decided to vary the routine a bit this year and read one of the recent books that either continues or rewrites Pride and Prejudice instead.

Darcy Takes a WifeI chose Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, a continuation of Pride and Prejudice. It’s quite long, 465 pages, so I read it before we left for Paris rather than take it with me.

The novel begins the day after Mr. Darcy’s wedding to Elizabeth Bennett. As they ride in a carriage from London, where they spent their first night together, Elizabeth is in some discomfort but too embarrassed to accept her new husband’s offer of a pillow. We then enter Elizabeth’s memory as she recalls how she came by her discomfort.

This recollection points to what distinguishes this book: Berdoll more than peeks behind the Darcys’ bed curtains; she gives us graphic account (after graphic account) of their love making. It turns out that Darcy and Elizabeth are quite enthusiastic in their marital union. Anyone looking for a steamy rewriting of Austen need look no further: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife is very much a romance novel set in the social world created by the decidedly non-sexy Austen.

Berdoll’s world is populated by all of the characters that make Austen’s novel such a treat. Besides Darcy and Elizabeth, we see Bingley and Jane (their wedding night and subsequent sexual activities are less competent than D&E’s), Wickham and Lydia (who almost immediately tire of one another’s company), the other Bennets, Mr. Collins and Charlotte, and even Lady Catherine de Bourgh (we don’t get any part of her sex life, fortunately!).

Much of Berdoll’s continuation fits well with Austen. Bingley, for example, is sexually inexperienced and rather incompetent at first in making love to his wife. This fits well with my vision of the character from Pride and Prejudice. Lady Catherine remains a dour figure staunchly opposed to her nephew’s marriage to his social inferior. Mr. Collins is still a buffoon, and Lydia and Wickham’s scenes perfectly match Austen’s foreshadowing.

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