Feb 162010
 

A Visit to Pemberley 25 Years After Pride and Prejudice

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Review Copy from Author

Unlike the plethora of Pride and Prejudice sequels that begin immediately or soon after Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Diana Birchall uniquely opens twenty-five blissful and flourishing years into the Darcy’s marriage. Throughout the past quarter of a century Darcy and Elizabeth have had little to disturb their happy marriage and are now the proud parents of three grown children. Fitzwilliam, the older son and heir to Pemberley, perhaps inspires more anxiety than pride since he doesn’t show as much aptitude for managing an estate as he does horses and racing. Henry, the younger son who is intending to be ordained soon, takes after his mother with his intelligence, compassion, and quick wit. Jane, the youngest in the family, has just turned seventeen and is preparing for her coming out into society.

The Wickham’s, unfortunately, have not experienced a joyful and successful life these past twenty-five years. George Wickham now spends his days and his money imbibing alcohol, leaving Lydia to manage and care for eight children. Lydia, despondent and wretched over the fate of her two eldest daughters, petitions the Darcy’s for assistance, resulting in an invitation for Bettina, 20, and Chloe, 17, to stay at Pemberley. Knowing that their own children could use a little more society and fresh conversation, the Darcy’s happily anticipate the arrival of the two eldest Misses Wickhams. Their only fear is that their sons may become romantically attached to these fair young cousins, but that occurrence is highly improbable…or is it?

One of things I enjoyed most about this charming sequel was the focus on the Darcy and Wickham children. These new characters, crafted by Diana Birchall, were interesting, diverse, and a fitting addition to the Pride and Prejudice populace. I especially liked Henry, he reminded me a lot of Henry Tilney with his kindness and teasing. I’m afraid I wasn’t too fond of Fitzwilliam though; you would think that since he respected and regarded his father so highly he would try to emulate him more. Instead he avoids his responsibilities and behaves quite vulgar and unabashed; I would like to think Mr. Darcy would raise his son to be better.

Another aspect I greatly enjoyed was the author’s tone throughout the narration of this novel. Especially the long passages of narration at the beginning of the novel that fondly and personally reintroduced us to the characters of Pride and Prejudice. While not exactly writing with Jane Austen’s biting social commentary, I do compliment Ms. Birchall for capturing Jane Austen’s honest and elegant narrative style.

My one small complaint for this novel is with some characters having mistresses and/or scandalous professions. I know these things did occur in Jane Austen’s time, even in some of Jane Austen’s novels, yet in this instance I felt these occurrences malapropros and more appropriate for a Georgette Heyer novel rather than a Jane Austen sequel.

If you feel an inclination to visit Pemberley twenty-five years after Pride and Prejudice, then Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma is the book I recommend for you! I was delighted by this tale of the Darcy and Wickham offspring and I greatly enjoyed being with the characters of Pride and Prejudice once again. I eagerly look forward to reading more works by Diana Birchall especially her short story collection about Mrs. Elton titled, Mrs. Elton in America: The Compleat Mrs. Elton Trilogy.

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5 Comments on "Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma – Diana Birchall"

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Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide

Hmm, I don’t know about this one. Nice review though.

Laurel Ann

Interestingly, this sequel was originally written in the early 1990’s long before Emma Tennant sallied forth with Pemberley: or Pride and Prejudice Continued in 1993. Birchall was way ahead of her time and this novel still stands up beautifully. She writes the closest to Austen’s style of any sequel author I have encountered. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks for the excellent review Meredith.

Meredith

Thank you Laurel Ann. I meant to mention that in my review. This sequel is one of the very few that were not inspired by the 1995 or 2005 movie adaption which makes it very unique!

Alexa Adams

I completely agree with you Meredith. While I was intrigued by this book, the behavior of certain nameless members of the younger generation appalled me. I found the scandalous aspects far-fetched, especially in their resolution.

It’s funny, but I find myself using the same phrase as you do here quite frequently in reviews – the “more appropriate for a Georgette Heyer novel rather than a Jane Austen sequel” clause.

Nina

Great review, next month me and my best friend are going to reread Pride and Prejudice..I am looking forward buying some ‘sequels’ and related books..This book sounds interesting!!

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