Book One of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman
by Pamela Aidan
This book is the first of a trilogy that promises to take the reader through the events of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view, the first volume ending as Mr. Bingley and his party go to London after the Netherfield ball. The story, previously published on the Internet, has been immensely popular amongst readers of Jane Austen fan fiction, and it is easy to see why. Ms. Aidan has clearly put a great deal of thought into Darcy’s motivations, and provides an interesting glimpse into the inner workings of his mind. Ms. Aidan has a feel for language, and the prose is dense and meaty; in spots perhaps too much so; the going is a little slow at times, as the reader finds herself flipping ahead a few pages, wishing that Darcy would stop the navel-gazing and do something already.
Darcy and Elizabeth, thankfully, are quite recognizable from the originals, though even in the midst of their pride and their prejudices they have a troubling tendency towards something too close to perfection at such an early stage in their journey. We like our Darcy much snootier, at least at first; remember, it is Elizabeth’s set-down after the Rosings proposal that makes him see the error of his ways. Until then, he still should be very much Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s nephew. It is a strain to imagine Ms. Aidan’s kinder, gentler Darcy delivering that arrogant marriage proposal. The plot, other than the events directly described in Pride and Prejudice, sometimes strays over the line into melodrama, but Ms. Aidan pulls in the reins quickly enough, and it is a relief to finally read a Jane Austen pastiche by an author who remembers that Jane Austen’s books are funny. Several likeable new characters are introduced to the mix as well.
Ms. Aidan has done copious research into Regency-era history, and reminds the reader of it at every opportunity. Unfortunately, she lacks Georgette Heyer’s light touch with history, and one tends to feel a bit bludgeoned by the parade of dazzling Regency personages and events that pass under Darcy’s purview. At the risk of sounding a trifle Miss Bingleyish, the guiding hand of a good editor would have sharpened the book into true excellence, from both the standpoint of plot and of grammar and punctuation. It’s a shame to read an otherwise well-written passage ruined by a very basic mistake in standard written English, a weakness we have noticed more often than not in self-published Jane Austen pastiches. If there were only a typo or two, we would forgive the errors readily, but finding them on page after page throughout the novel is off-putting and distracting and makes reviewers exceedingly cranky. One also wonders why the author felt compelled to separate the work into three volumes, as the first volume is quite slim. We would rather have waited for a complete work, preferably after it has suffered the ministrations of a competent copy editor.
All that being said, it is our experience that Janeites who enjoy pastiches tend to be an uncritical lot when it comes to dodgy editing (with the obvious exception of your humble servant), and the reception of Assembly thus far has been accordingly rapturous. Darcy fans will adore this book. You will have to search far and wide for a better look at Fitzwilliam Darcy’s inner life and the social forces that shaped him.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Wytherngate Press; (August 2003)
Published in the UK by Lightning Source Uk LTD, ISBN: 0972852905.
Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors. She finds that she is too much like Mr. Darcy to truly appreciate his many perfections, and thus leaves that appreciation to others while she devotes herself to the rector of Woodston parish.