Linda Berdoll,
Mr Darcy Takes a Wife
(Sourcebooks, 2004)

Jane Austen, it would appear, is a woman whose time has come. Never mind that she died nearly 200 years ago and left only six completed works. Sequels, prequels, films and contemporary adaptations of her work continue to appear. PBS's Masterpiece Classic is currently running a series of new telefilms; tomorrow, in fact, as I write this, they will begin airing the 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride & Prejudice. Which is somewhat apropos, as Mr Darcy Takes a Wife is a sequel to that revered novel, beginning almost immediately after P&P's end, with Darcy and his new wife on their way to their London home before going on to their estate at Pemberley. (And I don't know about you, but I tend to picture Darcy as looking rather a lot like Colin Firth.)

What happens to Austen's heroines after their triumphant weddings is a matter for some conjecture. I have to confess that I like Linda Berdoll's answer. Quite a lot, in fact. Mr and Mrs Darcy don't live happily ever after, though they certainly are happy. But life includes dark periods and tragedies and Berdoll doesn't shy away from any of them.

Austen purists will no doubt be horrified by how little Berdoll respects the privacy of the Darcys' bedroom (who knew that Lizzie Bennett could be quite so lusty?), but reading these scenes in the language that Miss Austen would have used had she ever written something so shocking makes them at once tender and amusing. As well, Berdoll not only mentions the war, something Austen never did, but takes us right into the thick of it (where we learn even more of Mr Wickham's wickedness).

A sequel to the sequel has already been published, and I can think of no higher recommendation for Mr Darcy Takes a Wife than to say that I will be seeking out the sequel forthwith.

review by
Laurie Thayer

22 March 2008

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