Her eyes locked with her husband’s again. “I intend to put this knowledge to good use by waiting until he is deep in a book to confess any sins I have committed. Then I will have the pleasure of a clean conscience, and he will be none the wiser.”
Bingley said, “An excellent plan. Upon my honour, when Darcy is reading, Bonaparte and all his army could come charging through with sabres drawn, and he would take no notice!”
(from Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, page 199 in the ARC)
The above quote about Mr. Darcy certainly applied to me when I was reading Abigail Reynolds’ latest Pemberley Variation, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, in which she poses one answer to the question, “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal?” What follows is not merely a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but a different story about Austen’s beloved characters, one that is fresh and unique while staying true to the Darcy and Elizabeth I know and love.
Reynolds opens her novel shortly after Darcy and Elizabeth are married — occurring when her sister, Jane, is still sad about Mr. Bingley’s sudden departure from Netherfield and prior to the elopement of her boy-crazy and impulsive sister, Lydia — with Darcy taking Elizabeth to Pemberley for the first time and Elizabeth recalling how she came to be married to a man she loathes. Mr. Darcy just assumed she’d accept his proposal, despite insulting Elizabeth with comments about her embarrassing family and low status, and the passionate kiss he forces upon her is observed by Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Catherine’s gatekeepers. This leaves her with little choice but to marry the arrogant Darcy and put up with the fact that he doesn’t want her associating with her family; if she chooses otherwise, she feels her family will be ruined and any chance for her four other sisters to marry will be lost.
Darcy soon learns that Elizabeth doesn’t share his feelings of love, and when an accident occurs and Elizabeth realizes that she does in fact love Darcy, it might be too late. Lonely, without family or friends, Elizabeth passes her days at Pemberley, feeling certain that she and Darcy will spend the rest of their lives simply co-existing. Both are too proud and stubborn to talk about their feelings, and when her sister, Lydia, runs off with Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth is sure that Mr. Darcy will want her to permanently sever all ties to her family.
While reading Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, it became obvious to me that Reynolds has read Pride and Prejudice many, many times and knows these characters inside and out. Though her writing style is part old-fashioned, part-contemporary, it was easy for me to lose myself in the story and actually forget I was reading an Austen sequel. Sometimes it felt that Elizabeth’s abhorrence of Darcy was stated too many times, but it was easy to overlook because the path Reynolds paved for the two was interesting. It was entertaining to watch Darcy come to the realization that he can be an arrogant ass and Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley. The only disappointment for me was not getting to see much of Elizabeth’s family. I can do without the annoying Mrs. Bennet, but I felt the absence of the witty Mr. Bennet.
Since the book opens in the middle of Austen’s story without any introductions of Darcy or Elizabeth or any backstory about their first meeting or the reasons why Elizabeth’s family (really, mother) is so embarrassing, I think it would be hard to truly understand if you haven’t already read Pride and Prejudice. For those of us (me included) who have read Pride and Prejudice more than once, it’s nice to just start at the exact point where Reynolds’ story begins.
I highly recommend Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World if you love Darcy and Elizabeth and have every wondered “what if?” You can be sure that I’ll read more of Reynolds’ Pemberley Variations in the future!
Disclosure: I received Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.