She must turn back into the woman she was before she had met Georgiana Darcy.
The letter was folded and put away, like the Darcys had done with Elizabeth’s heart.
(from Letter From Ramsgate)
Suzan Lauder’s latest novel, Letter From Ramsgate, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that imagines what might have happened had Elizabeth Bennet been the one to interfere with Mr. Wickham’s attempt to elope with Georgiana Darcy to gain access to her fortune. Elizabeth and her aunt spend the summer in Ramsgate with her aunt’s childhood friend, Lady Edwina, and in the midst of enjoying the ladies’ tales of their mischievous adventures as girls and taking part in Lady Edwina’s ladies salon, Elizabeth befriends the shy Georgiana, who is on holiday with her companion, Isabel Younge.
Georgiana’s stories of her older brother and guardian, Fitzwilliam, make Elizabeth confident that he is the best of men and should be consulted when Georgiana, in her youthful whirlwind of romantic notions, confides in Elizabeth her plans to go to Scotland with Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth’s decision sets into motion a series of events that both save her dear friend and ruin her own chances at happiness.
I absolutely loved Letter From Ramsgate, from the way it deviates from the original novel to Lauder’s writing style (using only words in use during the Regency period) to her original characters and her expansion on Austen’s secondary characters. Lauder portrays Mrs. Younge in a sympathetic way, allowing readers to understand her motivations for scheming with Wickham, and she writes Georgiana as a girl stronger than she appears at first glance, who is fiercely loyal to the people she loves. Lady Edwina was a breath of fresh air, giving Elizabeth a connection to the highest circles (though through her aunt in trade), encouraging intelligent discussion, and providing a shoulder for Elizabeth to cry on. I truly enjoyed Lady Edwina’s backstory, how she understood Elizabeth and her pain, though I wish the resolution of her story had been shown. She was such a well-developed, interesting character that she could carry a novel on her own.
Lauder does a great job showing the evolution of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship, though I had a hard time accepting Darcy’s swift about-face and then ended up being really angry at him for a time. However, Lauder takes care to highlight both Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s flaws and how they both contributed to the misunderstanding that tears them apart.
Letter From Ramsgate is a novel about loyalty, friendship, and the power of the written word. Lauder takes Elizabeth and Darcy on a journey from the sea to a menagerie, with plenty of passion and pain along the way. I had no idea how they would find their way back to each other, and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face while reading the last scene. After loving both Letter From Ramsgate and Lauder’s first novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, I can’t wait to read what she comes up with next!
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Disclosure: I received Letter From Ramsgate from Meryton Press for review.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.