Is it true that nothing can be lost that love cannot find? Jane Austen's beloved "Pride and Prejudice" is readapted in this Regency tale of love in the face of tragedy. Mr. Darcy is thwarted in his attempt to propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford when he encounters her minutes after she receives the sad news from Longbourn of her sister's death. His gallantry and compassion as he escorts her back to Hertfordshire begins to unravel the many threads of her discontent with him. While her family heals from their loss, Darcy must search London for answers --- answers that might bring justice but also might just mark the end of his own hopes with Elizabeth.
I now have a new favourite Pride and Prejudice variation (and my favourite before I read this one was her previous variation anyway, Falling for Mr Darcy!) It was absolutely wonderful. I am going to try and write this review with some sort of structure but I don’t call my reviews of books ‘reviews’ as such, more a collection of my thoughts about the book.
I will begin with the storyline; when I read the blurb I was intrigued. I thought it was an interesting way to take the story. In variations which include a death, the death is normally of Mr Bennet so I was interested in having the death of one of her sisters, Lydia. Lydia was out for a walk when she slips and hits her head, which eventually causes a fever and her demise. When we learn that a certain gentleman was also present on the walk (I will give you three guesses!) it sets up the basis for a bit of a mystery, which Darcy vows to Mr Bennet he will get to the bottom of. I thought it was a really good ‘what if’ variation.
One of my favourite things about Mackrory’s first variation were the parallels and similarities which she draws between her variation and the original novel. This variation was again very clever in this area. The story opens with Darcy coming upon Lizzy when she has just received the news of Lydia’s death, just like in the original when he happens upon Lizzy, after seeing her at Pemberley, when she has found out about Lydia’s elopement. There are many more examples of this throughout the novel; another of my favourites being when the explanation letter (which Darcy’s gives after the rejected proposal originally) is given and by whom (it is still a Darcy who sends it, but not MR Darcy).
As well as events like I have mentioned being shifted around and placed in different contexts, there is also the clever use of quotes and conversations from the original which appear throughout the novel in different places, spoken by different people and mostly in different contexts. Some of the best examples of this, I think, were the way in which many of the thoughts and feelings of Darcy and Lizzy were switched; Mr Darcy stating that ‘until this moment I never knew myself’ and Lizzy being asked the question of when she fell in love with Darcy. I sometimes find that important quotes from the original appearing completely out of context can be annoying, but the way in which it is treated by Mackrory is in no way annoying and is instead rather charming, causing me to smile and even laugh out loud in some cases while I was reading!
Another one of my favourite things about her last variation was the little themes which were running through the book. Theme isn’t quite the right word... In the story, as Lizzy is in mourning, there is often the need for a handkerchief to dry her tears, a handkerchief with the letters FD embroidered on it. Also, as you may guess from the title of the story, bluebells becomes a very important part of the story (and since reading this story I am planning on going for many more walks among the bluebells!)
Now for a little about some certain characters in the story, starting with Georgiana. I always wish to have seen more of Georgiana in the original as there seems to be a lot of untapped potential in Georgiana as we only meet her late in the novel. She comes in the story a lot earlier and we really see another side to her. Seeing her relationship with her brother was very sweet as their strong bond, which we see some of in the original, is developed and explored a lot in this variation. Georgiana really comes into her own and once she realises the particular interest her brother has in a certain Miss Bennet she turns into a little matchmaker, though a lot more subtly (and successfully) than Emma Woodhouse!
Moving onto another character that I always like in the variations which I read; Colonel Fitzwilliam. I think the colonel is a character which authors can have a lot of fun with. We see a little of his teasing nature in his relationship with Darcy in the original, and Mackrory uses this to her advantage. He is such a teasing and delightful character and is all affability. I love seeing more of Colonel Fitzwilliam and his relationship with Darcy and also his relationship with Georgiana. I was always laughing when Fitzwilliam was around!
I will refrain from saying much about Wickham but be rest assured, Wickham pops up from time to time through the story...
I believe my favourite secondary story line was the one between Mr and Mrs Bennet. Mackrory delves deeper into the past between the couple and the reasons for their indifference to each other for so long. Lydia’s death reignites past feelings between the two and they begin on the road to reconciliation. It is wonderful to see how their relationship changes throughout the story, ending in a very satisfactory way! (I will say no more...)
One thing I loved about her first variation was the inclusion of an epilogue, showing what happens to each of the characters in the future. And so I was very pleased to once again find an epilogue at the end, allowing us to see what happens to each of the characters in the future.
And so I reach the end of my ‘review’.... although I realise I haven’t really touched on the main two characters of the story; this will not do! Well, for anyone who wishes to read more about one of the most important couples in all of literature and to see a different route to bringing the two together, you will not be disappointed. There were enough problems that arose to keep the story interesting but not too many that it felt as if it was dragging on and on! The scenes towards the beginning of the story were a lot of fun, as Lizzy began to discover the true man behind the facade that is Mr Darcy. Any scenes between the two of them in the first half of the story brought a smile to my face. I do not want to give anything away but be assured the scenes between the two of them from the middle onwards are equally as enjoyable and are even more touching! The last thing I shall say is that the ending is perfection itself, capturing the balance between humour and romance perfectly!
This is a truly wonderful variation of my favourite novel of all time and I shall be re-reading it in the near future. It satisfied my highly romantic nature as well as my need for a good laugh, and with the added extra of a bit of mystery it all made for a delightful read. I hope Mackrory has another variation on the way!
Your affectionate friend,