Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen book cover
This Pride and Prejudice variation starts at the beginning of P&P, with a few chapters summarising the events, but more from Darcy’s point of view than Elizabeth’s. Darcy still offends her and still interferes with Bingley and Jane.  He goes to visit Lady Catherine at Rosings, not on a duty visit as in canon, but because Mrs Hurst mentioned that Elizabeth would be visiting her cousin in Kent.  Darcy has no intention of proposing when he goes to Hunsford Parsonage, which is why his proposal is so bad. Darcy is very close to his cousin Anne and he confides in her what has happened.

Anne decides on a plan of action to help her cousin successfully woo Miss Bennet, and she begins by befriending her. Elizabeth is much less strongly against Darcy than in canon and although she sees that Anne is trying to repair her opinion of Darcy Elizabeth is regretful of her treatment of him and she’s happy to enter into a correspondence with Anne. This means that Anne is aware of Elizabeth’s plans and whereabouts and she’s more able to arrange a ‘chance’ meeting between Elizabeth and Darcy.

The thing I probably liked best about this book was the fleshing out of Anne’s character. Although frail, she is a very determined lady (well, she is Lady Catherine’s daughter after all!) She genuinely loves her cousins and wants the best for them. Georgiana is also very sweet in this variation. She is much less shy than canon, and very quick on the uptake. She and Darcy are close and in a moment of weakness he mentions something to her regarding being told by an intelligent lady that one bad sonnet was sufficient to drive love away. Georgiana immediately latches on to the significance of this, and from then on is on the lookout for the lady she dubs ‘Miss Sonnet’ so she can help smooth her brother's path to love.

Some better-established characters are different too. Lizzy is much less set against Darcy and comes to a realisation even while still at Kent that she and Darcy could possibly have been happy together. By the time she’s finished reading his letter she has begun to regret refusing him. There was also a big difference in Jane Bennet who has learned a harsh lesson from Bingley’s abandonment and now isn’t so predisposed to forgiveness, and she also re-assesses her view of her parents and the upbringing she and her sisters have had.

There are also some new characters, such as Bingley having a much larger family, although we only meet his eldest brother George, who is an extremely hard-headed and successful business man, less genteel than his youngest siblings, but relied upon by some of the people with more breeding than money. Another original character was the delightful Lord Antony Fitzwilliam, who also appeared in A Wife for Mr Darcy. Lord Antony (Note: I’m not sure people were addressed Lord ‘firstname’ but I’m not saying it’s wrong because the naming conventions with titles pickle my brain!) is Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother. He is a gambler, constantly in debt, and has a very hostile marriage but he is well worth having in a story because of his amusement value due to his facetious sayings and lack of tact. When Mrs Hurst is talking about visiting a sister he came out with this gem of quote, which certainly made me, a proud Welshwoman, chortle:

 “But not in Wales, I hope. The Celtic race was pushed into the corners, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and in the case of the Irish, onto their own island. People who live in corners are always odd and should be avoided.”

The Darcy in this story is devoted to Elizabeth, but he hasn’t been a monk up until this point, and there are references to him having had mistresses and lovers in the past, and a few sexual references which some readers may not like. However, I am in the camp that think it wouldn’t have been unlikely for this to have been the case, it wasn’t a dishonourable thing to do, especially for a single man of the times. What I was a little surprised at is that Elizabeth doesn’t seem bothered by this idea. Being of a lower class of society than him, and being younger I felt that she might not have held such cosmopolitan views.

I felt that this was like a cross between an alternate point of view retelling and a variation. One of the things I really like about variations is that seemingly small changes can have a ripple effect and end up making things quite different but this isn’t the case here, although some different things happen, all the major plot milestones remain the same, I would have liked to have seen things change a bit more. For example, the character of George Bingley played a role in a particular part in this story and it made only a little difference to the outcome from the original book. The changes here are more nuances than seismic shifts. However, I found it an enjoyable, romantic read, the type that when you look up from your book you realise a very long time has passed since you last looked at a clock and you should have gone to sleep two hours ago, which is a fine accolade!




8 comments:

  1. Spot on Ceri! I agree on all points, I really like how she developed Anne and I love that she has a great relationship with Both Darcy, Georgiana and the Colonel.I know what you mean in regards to what type of book, If you wanted a change form P&P it would be a good alternative. If the part Anne played could have been combined into A Wife for Mr Darcy that would be great!

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    1. Yes, Anne was fab wasn't she! I like to read books where the character of Anne de Bourgh is developed.

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  2. I've read this one, too. As Tamara says, your review is spot on, Ceri, without too many spoilers, either.

    i'm afraid I'm also guilty of the "should have gone to sleep two hours ago", even if, and sometimes especially if, I've got work the next day!

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    1. Thank you Anji. I always worry about spoilers!

      I know exactly what you mean about work nights, common sense goes out of the window and you end up reading instead :)

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  3. I have not read this so I have added it to my wish list, thank you for the review

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  4. Loved the points you brought out about the story. I haven't read it for a while, but I remember enjoying Col. Fitz's brother. I like it when Anne gets a stronger character presence too. Nice review!

    I had no idea that you had a blog, Ceri! I absolutely will follow now. ;)

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    1. Thank you Sophia! I am new to blogging, I kept thinking all last year that I should try it, because I wrote reviews of what I read anyway, to help me remember the details. So I started in January, but I didn't publish anything publicly for a while. I am really enjoying it so far. Thank you for following :)

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