It’s that time again, time to read another Pride and Prejudice spin-off. The one I picked this time was another of my very favourite kind – what happens from Darcy’s point of view after that infamous proposal at Rosings. This variation provides a slightly different spin on things in that the timeline of events changes and some new key points are thrown in for added interest. It’s also from an author that I’m not familiar with so I was intrigued by it from the offset.
Mr Darcy And The Secret Of Becoming A Gentleman picks up with Darcy leaving Kent after his botched proposal to Elizabeth; he leaves her in receipt of his explanation letter while he contemplates all that she’s said and just how much of it might have a basis in truth. He soon realises that, though she is misunderstood in some of her facts, her criticisms of his character are well-founded and he makes it his mission to make himself worthy of her love and attention. True to its inspiration, Darcy struggles to let go of his pride to become the man he wants to be, while Elizabeth must learn to leave her prejudices to one side and see the man she thought she hated slowly become the man of her dreams.
The story and the characters in themselves were recognisable but the viewpoint that this author has chosen to provide is unlike what I’m used to in reading these kinds of stories. Darcy was stubborn to begin with and slowly softens to suit Elizabeth’s personality, as we expect him to, but he is shown to be much softer than we have seen him in the past. His vulnerability is on full display throughout the story, while his protective nature and difficulties in overcoming his weaknesses keep the roguish, manly elements of Darcy that women all over the world have been in love with for 200 years.
Elizabeth, like her original counterpart, was at first unwilling to see that she may have been too harsh on a man who struggled with social awkwardness, heavy responsibilities and a tough upbringing. Her move towards understanding and open-mindedness is more familiar to us all as readers of Pride and Prejudice, but she is shown to be more affectionate in this version of her story.
The changes in plot felt realistic for the characters; there was no great divergence from what we know and love of this couple. What I personally enjoy most about these spin-off novels is that they are, unlike the original, written in a time when more romance and affection is acceptable to the reader. It makes the relationship between the two protagonists feel more real and complete, and provides something that Austen herself couldn’t even if she had wanted to.
As a side note to the overall plot and characterisation, I enjoyed reading a version of this story that didn’t use the Wickham/Lydia story to push the plot along. While Wickham was mentioned in the context of Darcy’s letter after the Rosings proposal, neither Wickham or Lydia was given much air time. It was pleasant reading to see a version of the story where Darcy and Elizabeth came together without the protection of Lydia Bennett becoming a factor, it shows what might have happened had Austen decided to give Elizabeth a sensible family.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this version of Pride and Prejudice, and it’s changing plot-line. I’d be happy to give more of this author’s work a go, especially if it focuses on my favourite couple in literary and movie history – Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr Darcy.