It is a truth universally acknowledged that one of the most romantic stories of all times must be in want of a sequel. And so, Pride and Prejudice gains another completion, this time in the form of Pemberley Manor, by first time author, Kathryn Nelson. Unabashedly inspired by A&E's Miniseries, Pemberley Manor gives new life to familiar characters as they seek their individual Happily Ever Afters.
The story begins on "the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters" and as one might expect from the title, follows the Darcy's as they adjust to married life and a deeper knowledge of each other. Other characters are portrayed in varying degrees of domesticity, including the Bingley's, both Charles and Jane as well as his sisters, Colonel Fitzwilliam and of course, Georgiana Darcy.
Jane Austen gives us only a glimpse into the future awaiting the new couples and Ms. Nelson expands on that theme with surprises at every turn. New and interesting characters are introduced even as Pemberley's ghosts begin to materialize.
Family history is revealed showing how Darcy, who claims to "have been a selfish being all [his] life, in practice, though not in principle" and "was taught what was right, but...not taught to correct [his] temper...was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit" came to be the man found at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. These same family forces will not be easily erased. Elizabeth soon discovers that it will take all her love and a family tragedy to ultimately free him from this dark past.
As much as one would like to think of the senior Darcys as models of propriety and manner, Ms. Nelson chooses a path of more realism. Darcy's mother, the late Lady Anne, is not the shy retiring gentlewoman one might expect. She proves to be much more like her sister, Lady Catherine DuBourgh. She is a woman who married in haste only to repent at leisure. It is this personality which shaped Darcy's childhood, causing him to explain that as "an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own."
Throughout the book Darcy is shown as a man conflicted by his past prejudices and present happiness. As he comes to a better realization of the life his parents shared, he learns to cherish the fresh opportunities he has with Elizabeth at his side. Friends of his late father, the Alexanders, play a pivotal role in his new understanding, and a childhood mentor returns to Derbyshire with surprising revelations about Darcy's past.
This story is presented at times from Darcy's point of view and at others from Elizabeth's. The plot is well written and tightly knit, with loose ends being neatly tied up by the conclusion. The text is sprinkled with dialogue and while some readers may find it wordy, it is easy to imagine Elizabeth and Darcy settled into their life at Pemberley sharing just such conversations.
As Elizabeth adjusts to her new role as Darcy's wife, she must face the scrutiny of the neighborhood and the Darcy's lifelong friends. Enjoyable scenes play out as she develops her niche in society as the mistress of Pemberley.
Georgiana Darcy is given nearly as many pages as the happy couple, and her character is developed in a delightful way. Her new friendship with Elizabeth causes her once shy personality to bloom. Even as her new found self possession unfolds, a satisfying romance falls her way.
Perhaps the most interesting change of heart is given to Caroline Bingley who appears at first much as she did in the original. Her pride damaged by Mr. Darcy's abandonment of her expectations, she takes desperate measures to restore her self esteem. Through the ensuing events Charles Bingley is finally awakened to his responsibilities as brother and friend. Jane (Bennet) Bingley remains her sweet, uncomplicated self.
Not for the faint of heart, this sequel runs well over 400 pages and explores themes along a darker and more adult line than the original. Questions of Georgiana's parentage are brought to light and answered through a surprising plot twist. Scenes of marital felicity between Darcy and Elizabeth abound and are explored in a delicate and tasteful way. Sometimes heartbreaking and often humorous, the story will keep readers intrigued to the last, though the revelation of a main character's alternative lifestyle will shock most and offend many.