"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me."
So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy's hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley's persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.
Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen's original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy's past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time. Summary from www.goodreads.com
Now, for all you Austen lovers out there, this sounds great doesn't it? I'm very sorry to say I didn't love this novel. I am actually, quite annoyed with this novel. It's been on my to read list for a while, and I either forgot or just never noticed it was apart of a trilogy. I find that annoying because it seems unnecessary to divide Austen's story into three novels. That's strike one against this novel for me.
Strike two would be that I have a feeling Aidan is going to include more political storytelling in the next two books, which seems to me to depart too much from P&P. Frankly, that's not what the novel is at all about thematically, and while I appreciate that this is Darcy's version, it's my opinion that the novel should remain true to the central themes explored by Austen. Hopefully I am mistaken in my reasoning of this development in the following novel, but several scenes did lead me to this conclusion.
Strike three: Darcy is paying way too much attention to Elizabeth. I don't mind that they have more scenes together, but he spends a great deal of time observing her and noticing when she is embarrassed. He's actually developing a good understanding of her character, which is going to make the rejected proposal scene ridiculous, because if he's able to make such accurate observations of her moods and to some degree, her character, how are we as readers going to buy into his proposing marriage to a woman he has already described to himself as being indifferent to him? Depending on how Aidan pens that, it's going to make Darcy an inconsistent character.
Strike four (goodness, they are piling up): I now have a far greater understanding of men's fashion during the Regency period than I do of women's. Darcy gets changed two or three times throughout the day, sometimes more! What is up with needing to detail each toilet? It just seems to detract from the story.
However, I must say the novel is written very well. The Regency era prose and language is smooth and reminiscent of Austen's own style. I'm just not sure that this trilogy will serve as a proper rendering of Darcy's side of the events. I might be too much of a purist.
Two point five stars.
And yes, I will read the next two books. Eventually.