Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Have you ever wondered what Mr. Darcy’s past was like before Elizabeth Bennet? Was he really a spoiled by his parents and taught to be “selfish and overbearing?” How different was his childhood from his cousins and friends because he is the heir and expected to inherit a prominent estate and legacy?
In her debut novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy Such I Was, Carol Cromlin offers a prequel to Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice. Using Jane Austen’s descriptions and narratives as a guide, Carol Cromlin fleshes out Darcy’s character and imagines scenes from his childhood, youth, and young adulthood. Covering the span of twenty-eight years, this story jumps around and touches upon significant moments and life-changing events in Darcy’s life that help define and shape the reserved man Elizabeth meets at the Meryton Assembly.
What I loved most about this prequel is that is readers witness a little bit of everything in Darcy’s life. The night of his birth, the happy scenes from his childhood, the scrapes he gets into, the trials, tragedies, and relationships, his years at Cambridge, his tour of the continent – it is quite inclusive and illuminating! I appreciated how Ms. Cromlin showed great care, respect, and perception with her portrayal or Darcy. The hero we love was easily recognized in his younger years by his serious nature, honorable moral code, and duty to family. And yet, he was real – he had flaws, made mistakes, got into some trouble…
Another aspect of this story I greatly enjoyed was witnessing Darcy’s interactions with his family, cousins, and friends. I especially enjoyed his relationship with his parents, how they were unconventional with their hands-on childrearing and how they instilled in him, even at a very young age, the importance of his future role and responsibilities:
“Of paramount importance is that Pemberley is what connects a Darcy to the other Darcys who came before him, and to all who shall follow…It is for us to do what is required to preserve our home so that Darcys shall continue here through eternity. It is Pemberley that makes a Darcy who he is. It is Pemberley whence a Darcy draws his strength. That is a great gift, but it is also a great responsibility.” – George Darcy (page 52)
In addition, I loved seeing how Darcy came to know the Bingley family and become an instrumental mentor and friend to Charles Bingley. I also took pleasure in the brotherly and fiercely supportive relationship between Rennie Fitzwilliam (soon to be Colonel) and Darcy. I loved seeing Rennie look out for Darcy during his years at Cambridge and comfort him during the difficult loss of his father.
Now it might shock some people to hear me this, but…the one relationship I wish I saw more of was Darcy’s friend-turn-foe relationship with Wickham. I know, can you believe it?!? I would have loved to see a little more of their childhood where they were chummy companions and then later the scenes of disagreement and discord over the Kympton living and his attempted elopement with Georgiana. Since he is the antagonist in Darcy’s story, I wish we saw him interact more with Darcy and witness their confrontations take place on the page.
Regardless of my quibbles, I found much to appreciate and take pleasure in with this debut novel (and hopefully a continuing series) from Carol Cromlin! An introspective and revealing tale about an “ardently loved and admired” character! I recommend!