coverOver the past few weeks I’ve been reading Pamela Aidan’s “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman” trilogy: An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain (pictured here). These books retell the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view.

Aidan has done a remarkable job of maintaining the spirit and character of Austen’s novel while adding original material of her own. As somewhat of a purist, I would have enjoyed a little less of the latter, but I really enjoyed all three books. They’re all good reading.

An Assembly Such as This relates Mr. Darcy’s viewpoint during his visit to Netherfield. Throughout this first volume, Aidan skillfully recreates Austen’s scenes — the public ball, Jane’s illness and Elizabeth’s subsequent visit at Netherfield, and Mr. Bingley’s ball. I was definitely impressed by her ability to retain much of Austen’s dialogue while creating a full-fledged and believable character in her version of Mr. Darcy. Of the three volumes, this one follows Austen’s original most closely; I found it very enjoyable.

The second volume, Duty and Desire, traces Mr. Darcy’s struggle to overcome his feelings for Elizabeth after leaving Netherfield. In this book, Aidan moves away from mimicking Austen’s plot, dialogue, and characters by filling in the “silent time” of Austen’s novel (as the back of the book says). Trying to get over his interest in Elizabeth, Darcy spends the novel pushing Bingley away from his love for Jane, keeping a watchful eye on his sister, Georgiana, and attending various social events for the London elite, including a country gathering at Norwycke Castle, the home of one of his old Cambridge buddies, a party that nearly turns disastrous for our leading man.

Aidan does a particularly good job of creating a rounder version of Georgiana than Austen provides. She also creates a new character, Lord Dy Brougham, another of Darcy’s college friends. I liked this volume the least of the three, however, since it departs the most from Austen’s original. I especially found the chapters on Darcy’s visit to Norwycke to find some other woman to love a bit tedious and drawn out. Some mystical elements are also introduced into the plot; I ultimately lost interest in this plot line and ultimately couldn’t keep the characters straight — there are several original male and female characters in this section. For someone like me, this novel is mostly filler — the stuff that happens before we get back to the real story.

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