As I’ve said in the past, I love all things Jane Austen and I really enjoy reading fan-fiction based on her stories (particularly the ones based on Pride and Prejudice). I follow a lot of book-type people on Twitter and one recently tweeted that His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley was free on Amazon Kindle for a day. It’s another of the retellings of Pride and Prejudice from Mr Darcy’s point of view. I immediately downloaded it and made a note that it would be the next book I read. I’ve finished it now, and here’s what I thought.
His Good Opinion is a great new way of looking at the much beloved story between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. It keeps all of the key plot-points that Pride and Prejudice lovers will be familiar with, but shows them in a new light; this is something that is tough to maintain throughout a whole novel (I would imagine). Nancy Kelley has managed to capture the original spirit of Pride and Prejudice perfectly, even going as far as to re-use some of the original lines from the book in her novel; this was particularly charming and reassuring for me as a reader, as I felt like I was familiar with what was going on in a way that encouraged my enjoyment of the story.
My favourite aspect of this novel is the way in which Nancy Kelley approached the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy; I’ve read a couple of Austen fan-fiction books now and they all manage to give the beloved characters a fresh lease of life, but His Good Opinion stands out as one of the best examples I’ve seen of re-characterisation. Nancy Kelley succeeds in making Darcy likeable (almost) from the outset, something which isn’t afforded to the reader in Pride and Prejudice. He is written as a gentle, loving, nervous man who is unsure of his feelings and struggling with the pressures of coming from a wealthy family. I enjoyed seeing Darcy as a nervous wreck, struggling with his emotions for Lizzie Bennet from a very early point in the story; much earlier than in the original Austen novel. I feel this gave His Good Opinion a little added edge over Pride and Prejudice, as it is always nice to want both parties to succeed; in Pride and Prejudice I rooted for Lizzie Bennet to get her man, but never felt any real emotion for the success of Mr Darcy, now I get to feel pleased that BOTH of them got what they wanted.
Nancy Kelley‘s writing style was fluid and very readable throughout; she used plain English instead of attempting to keep in with the writing style of the original novel, and she has a talent for making her characters accessible. Even though I know the plot of Pride and Prejudice like the back of my hand, I found that I wasn’t bored by any part of Kelley’s re-telling and I still read on with anticipation to see how Kelley decided to reach the conclusion that I knew was coming. She managed to take a well-loved story and give it a new twist, one that I really enjoyed reading. Of the growing list of Austen fan-fiction that I’m reading, this is currently sitting at the top of my list as my favourite.