“I know I shall have to learn to carry my memories … wherever I go, but I will not turn my back on Pemberley. It is our home, and to it we must return.”
(from The Pemberley Chronicles, page 338)
The Pemberley Chronicles is the first in a 10-book series that continues Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It covers the first 25 years of the marriages of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jane and Charles Bingley, including the lives and loves of the other Bennet sisters, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Charlotte Collins, Georgiana Darcy, and all of the children born to them.
Rebecca Ann Collins opens the novel after the Darcys and the Bingleys have been united in marriage, and I found it to be a slow start due to the repetition of how perfect Mr. Darcy is for Elizabeth, how wonderful and generous a man Mr. Darcy is, how happy Darcy and Elizabeth are, how close Elizabeth and Jane are, how much they love the Gardiners, etc. I was determined to finish it, though, because the fourth book is sitting on my shelf, and after about 50 pages, I became invested in the story and the characters as Collins focused more on the industrialization of England and the societal changes it brings.
Darcy grows increasingly frustrated with many of the other wealthy landowners near Pemberley, especially those whose estates were only recently purchased and who care more about money than the land and their tenants. They begin enclosing their estates, driving their tenants out, and leaving them to beg on the side of the road and even die of starvation. Darcy also is upset about the environmental pollution impacting the streams and picturesque beauty of the land he so loves. He helps the Gardiners buy a manor in Derbyshire to be closer to their niece, Elizabeth, but also to remove their children, particularly their young daughters Caroline and Emily, from the excesses of London society. Later, Colonel Fitzwilliam returns from the colonies to join the reformist movement, stand for Parliament, and speak out about the use of child labor in the factories popping up in the major cities and other injustices inflicted on the poor to help wealthy businessmen get ahead.
For the most part, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of Austen’s characters years after Pride and Prejudice ends, but I found it difficult to keep track of everyone’s ages, especially as their children grew up and married. It also was difficult at times to keep track of all these children, as Collins focuses on the children of the Darcys, the Bingleys, the Gardiners, and the Collinses, in particular. Because there are so many, Collins only scratches the surface of who they are, except for Caroline and Emily Gardiner, who are fairly well developed. Taking a peek at the rest of the books in the series, however, it looks like these characters will be covered in more detail later on.
The Pemberley Chronicles goes a bit overboard when it comes to the perfection of the marriages of the Darcys and the Bingleys. Of course, we want them to live happily ever after, but it would have been more believable and exciting for Darcy and Elizabeth at least to have butted heads about something over the course of 350 pages. However, Collins did make me curious enough about the children to want to continue the series, even though I’m pretty sure Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, and Bingley will take a backseat as they age and their children and grandchildren take center stage. This isn’t a perfect Pride and Prejudice sequel, probably because it tries to accomplish a lot in terms of following several characters and their children in a time of political and social upheaval, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the series more as Collins’ original characters make the story more her own.
Disclosure: I borrowed The Pemberley Chronicles from the public library.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.