“But don’t you see, Lizzy, if you shut yourself away, the Germans have claimed another victory, and it is a series of small victories that in the end wins wars.”
(from Darcy Goes to War, page 94)
Darcy Goes to War combines two of my biggest reading interests, World War II and Jane Austen. In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in 1944, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a bomber pilot, and Elizabeth Bennet transports supplies as a lorry driver. Mary Lydon Simonsen retains the basic plot points of Austen’s original, but she moves things along at a faster pace.
Darcy doesn’t make a good first impression when Elizabeth first sees him in a pub drinking his sorrows away, but with World War II in high gear, he has even more obstacles to overcome in building a relationship with her. Having witnessed the horrors of war firsthand and having comforted her sister, Jane, after the death of her first love in battle, Elizabeth wants nothing to do with romance until the war is over. However, she finds it hard to resist Darcy’s charms once she gets to know him, and a heart-to-heart talk with her father, a veteran of the World War I trenches, makes her realize that she must carry on despite the war.
Although Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine are mostly or completely absent from the novel, the war is the big tension-builder here. Simonsen does a great job bringing wartime England to life through the war work performed by the Bennet sisters, the bombing raids flown by Darcy and Bingley, and the destruction caused by Hitler’s V2 rockets. She introduces some intriguing American soldiers, even emphasizing how many girls found themselves pregnant during the war. Not a single aspect of life, not even dating, was left unaffected by the war.
Unlike other Austen-inspired novels, Darcy Goes to War is different in that Darcy’s parents are alive, eliminating Lady Catherine’s influence. However, this doesn’t mean Darcy gets off easy, and his troubled relationship with his parents plays out in his personality and in his relationship with Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Simonsen takes the love story up a notch by giving Darcy and Elizabeth a spiritual connection that gets them through some difficult times. Some might say it is a bit over the top, but I think it works in the context of war.
Darcy Goes to War was a pleasant read, especially for a novel with World War II at its core. I love how Simonsen takes Austen’s characters and makes them her own and how she uses the romance to keep things light even when the book heads toward darker territory. Darcy Goes to War is a must for fans of the Austenesque, underscoring the power of love to survive even the darkest days of war.
Disclosure: I received Darcy Goes to War from the author for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.