‘You have tremendous power and need not be ruled over, or dictated to by any man,’ Mrs. Gardiner had insisted. ‘You may become your own woman; you may command your own ship, and you may do tremendous good, if you should choose. This is your life now, and you ought to make the most of it. Wishing for something else will not change things and you are wasting your life away if you carry on letting others take on the duties that ought to be yours.’
(from The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet)
Quick summary: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that significantly departs from canon. Caitlin Williams tells the story of a 15-year-old Elizabeth Bennet who makes some foolish decisions after the death of her father that result in her having to marry 23-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy, the son of her new guardian. Mr. Bennet’s death sees the Bennet sisters split up, and Elizabeth is whisked off to Pemberley, where she is isolated from her beloved sister, Jane, and married to a man who acts like she doesn’t exist. With Darcy away for the first few years of her marriage and under the watchful eye of Colonel Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth grows into a charming young woman, a true mistress of Pemberley. But just because Darcy sees her in a new light doesn’t mean she sees him differently.
Why I wanted to read it: It sounded unique in terms of Pride and Prejudice variations. I’m still amazed that authors continue to find fresh ways to retell a single novel!
What I liked: Williams certainly took time to develop her characters. Darcy and Elizabeth were not very likeable at the beginning of the novel, and Darcy continued to be unlikeable for much of the first half of the novel. While disliking these beloved characters could turn some readers off, I thought it worked in that you see how their circumstances change them over time and how they grow into a mature couple. It’s hard to imagine that anyone forced to marry under such circumstances would find happiness together right away, so it was a realistic portrayal in my opinion.
I also loved how Williams worked in various aspects of Austen’s novel but using different characters and situations, and I enjoyed the original characters, namely the governess Miss Temple and Elizabeth’s maid Rose. Mr. Wickham and Caroline Bingley still manage to be delightfully horrid, and it was nice getting to know the elder Mr. Darcy as well. Colonel Fitzwilliam was a very likeable character, and his relationship with Elizabeth was sweet and his playing middleman between Darcy and Elizabeth was entertaining.
What I disliked: I admit that it was hard to dislike Elizabeth and Darcy for some of the book, but making them disagreeable definitely furthered the story in terms of character development and evolution. But other than that, I enjoyed the story from start to finish.
Final thoughts: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is a thoughtful portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth in less than ideal circumstances. Williams does a fantastic job transforming them into the characters we know and love. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future!
About the author: Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.
Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.
Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.
Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.
Follow the blog tour:
June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post/“Happy Birthday Fanny Burney & The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet” & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time… / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ From Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz’s Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post
Disclosure: I received The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet from the author for review.
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