Top positive review
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A worthy sequel
on 11 March 2006
This is an excellent book. Well-written, interesting, detailed and with some elements of humour, it is a great story about a man's struggles within himself over worries for his sister, the woman with whom he is falling in love, his servants and the other people he meets.
The first novel in this series of three, "An Assembly Such As This" covered the period up to the end of the Netherfield Ball when the Bingleys and Mr Darcy leave Hertfordshire for London. This book spans the time between that and just before Mr Darcy goes to Hunsford to make his first marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. In fact, Elizabeth does not appear at all in this book in person - but she is mentioned throughout as Darcy begins to understand what he is feeling about her, and to understand why he feels that way - her "goodness and good sense".
There are a whole host of new characters in this book, as well as some who were introduced in the former book (although not in Jane Austen's work) and they are well-fleshed out and believable - with a few exceptions. What really stands out about this book is that you don't feel you're reading a book that is having to `fit in' with another book already written - it stands on its own, and although you know that Darcy and Elizabeth are going to get together, and indeed how this will take place, you are still fascinated to see what's going to happen next with Darcy.
The exception to the believability of the book is in the central character of the latter half of the book - Sylvanie, who is the half-sister of another character and who is trying to seduce Darcy into marrying her by the use of dark arts. Her companion, apparently an old female servant but in actuality her mother, connives in this deception which involves leaving a dead pig at a local beauty spot and, eventually, the kidnapping of a child (and the possibility is always there that the child will be killed). This adds a certain whodunnit aspect to the book, perhaps trying to elevate the suspense, but for me it wasn't entirely successful. My purpose in reading this book was to follow the love story with Darcy and Elizabeth and the way that his sentiments change; as a side issue, it would be interesting to know more about Bingley (although that doesn't happen in this book), and Georgiana (well described); I felt the mystery aspect of Sylvanie's weaving a spell over Darcy wasn't entirely necessary.
Another notable theme in this book, and indeed in the previous volume, is the religious side of Georgiana, and to some extent, Darcy. Nothing is mentioned in Jane Austen's book except that they go to church - but in this book we hear a lot more of faith, of Georgiana's very devout faith specifically, of philosophy within a religious framework, and get to read a lot of the Prayer Book. It fits in reasonably, but to me had just a twinge of un-English (American!) religious fervour which may reflect upon the author.
The writer of this book, Pamela Aidan, has done an excellent job with the dialogue, historical detail, the feel of the period. However, as in so many other American-written novels, there are errors that leap out at an English reader - one examples of which are the use of "fall" for "autumn". Although I only counted four of these type of errors in the book (and none in the first instalment) I was rather disappointed that an editor hadn't noticed them and dealt with them as, for me, they jarred and brought me, however briefly, out of my complete immersion in the book. My particular edition of the book also had a number of spelling/typesetting mistakes - perhaps these will be corrected in a reprint, if there is one.
Overall I did enjoy this book, although perhaps not as much as Volume 1, and I am very much looking forward to reading the third and final volume when it is published. It's good to know that we have the visit to Hunsford and the first marriage declaration, along with all the events that lead to the second declaration, in store for us.
Read this book and enjoy it for the new and detailed insights it gives us into Darcy; just ignore the few oddities that perhaps don't quite sit right in this story.