While many of those works focus on Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, we do occasionally get novels that talk about some of the supporting players(such as Mary Bennet) and it is so refreshing to see where those pivotal characters on the story sidelines end up.
One such tale is The Clergyman's Wife by debut author Molly Greeley. The title refers to Charlotte Collins, formerly Lucas, who was able to help both her friend Elizabeth and herself by accepting the marriage proposal of Mr. Collins, cousin of the Bennet family who is also heir to their estate of Longbourn.
We met up with Charlotte three years after the events of P&P, where she is reasonably content with her lot in life. While Lady Catherine's constant interference is almost a daily occurrence and her husband's eagerness to do his patron's bidding can be a bit much, Charlotte does have her own home to command along with the joy of having a thriving daughter named Louisa and keeping up a correspondence with her dear friend Elizabeth Darcy:
Nevertheless, Charlotte is rather lonely and longs for someone to truly talk to. That much needed friend turns up unexpectedly due to another one of Lady Catherine's endeavors.
A local farmer, Mr. Travis, is prevailed upon by Her Ladyship to assist in planting a set of rose bushes at the Collins' home. During his visits, Charlotte finds his company more than just agreeable as he is a man with a sense of humor and intellectual pursuits beyond his regular line of work.
Despite her reluctance to seek out his companionship, Charlotte decides to increase her role as parish wife and make a few home visits to those unable to attend church regularly. That list happens to include Mr. Travis' father, who was once a gardener for Lady Catherine's estate, and by bringing little Louisa along, she delights both father and son.
However, other occasions occur that throw Charlotte and the younger Mr. Travis together, making her quietly yet steadily nervous that their true feelings about each other may be revealed to the world:
This book is written in a lovely contemplative style, giving us clear insights into Charlotte's past as well as her present, all of which are in tune with the source material.
Greeley paints a delicate portrait of not only Charlotte but the small section of the world in which she lives, allowing a larger canvas for those with no choice other than revolving about Rosings, which is beautifully described and easy to see why walking those grounds would be worth dealing with Lady Catherine's vexing whims.
While Elizabeth and Darcy play a small part in this story, having Charlotte's viewpoint on that relationship is great to see and certainly grants the constant P&P reader a very nicely done perspective on that there:
While it does add greatly to the pleasure of enjoying this engaging novel, The Clergyman's Wife can offer considerable delights for those who have not yet read Pride and Prejudice with it's heartfelt depiction of a woman trapped in a social role and making the best of things as she can.
I am very happy indeed to have taken part in the blog tour for this wonderful book (you can find out more about the tour at Austenprose )and this touching tale of what could be is something that I sincerely believe Jane Austen herself would appreciate: