My latest selection for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge this year was Amanda Grange's Dear Mr. Darcy which, as the subtitle describes, is a retelling of Jane Austen's classic novel. The story is retold in epistolary form(aka letters) with both the regular batch of Austen characters and a few new ones added to the mix.
The narrative point begins with the death of old Mr. Darcy,who leaves his only son instructions on how to carry out the family legacy,including advice on finding a suitable wife.
Darcy does his best to pick up the reins of responsibility during this sad time,as well as providing comfort to his younger sister Georgiana. Some of Darcy's advisers are family such as Col. Fitzwilliam(who shares guardianship of Georgiana) and cousin Phillip,who offer solace and suggestions on many dilemmas,especially the never ending one that is George Wickam:
Meanwhile,we also meet the Bennet sisters,who are regretting the loss of the Sotherton family from their neighborhood(due to a necessary retrenchment to Bath) but are pleased to get acquainted with the new tenants of their friends' former home at Netherfield Park. While second eldest daughter Elizabeth shares her local news with her beloved Aunt Gardner,she gives more intimate details to her good friend Susan Sotherton,who hopes to find a well off gentleman to marry her way out of her family's troubles.
One of the amusing highlights of these letters are the opportunities granted to other supporting characters such as seriously silly Mary Bennet. Her correspondence to Lucy Sotherton,a fellow "Learned Woman", that chronicles her devotion to creating numerous books of extracts as well as being oblivious to the attentions of a local clerk,are some of my personal favorite passages in DMD.
Of course,the main plot threads are linked to Darcy and Elizabeth,whose journey from mutual loathing to true love is well carried out here. Both the sassy interactions and the dramatic moments of tension between these two are properly put on display:
Amanda Grange has written several other Austen themed books,such as Mr. Darcy,Vampyre(which I happen to be reading in e-book form),as well as other fictional fare but Dear Mr. Darcy is quite the delightful introduction to her lively style of storytelling.
The ease in which she blends in new characters with their own story lines into the already well known plot points of the established P&P players marks her as a solid writer in her own stead. A true bonus is how Grange makes this story sing with notes of freshness and the engaging entertainment of each letter,even when the sad news about Lydia takes center stage:
So,if you haven't yet discovered the literary delights of Amanda Grange,Dear Mr. Darcy is a highly recommended place to start in my opinion. I do have some extra credit P&P reading to do,one of those being P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley and I am saving a pair of red hot sequels for summer but for now,this engaging revisit to Pride and Prejudice is a satisfying set of letters to analyze: