Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman - the series

Despite the fact that I've hated the Austen fan-fiction that I've read I felt compelled to read the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series by Pamela Aidan. So I read them this week. And I think it's easier to talk about the whole series at once. The books try to tell Darcy's story while following the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

The first book in the series is An Assembly such as This. Those of you who know your P&P will know what this title references too. This follows Darcy from his arrival at the Meryton ball (the assembly in the title) to his departure of Netherfield. You get his first impressions of Elizabeth. And you get an impression of who he really is and how he acts when among his friends. There's insight into the nature of his relationship with Bingley. You hear the tale of Georgiana and Wickham. You can read the letter he writes in the drawing room. Highly amusing to me were his impressions of Miss Bingley.

It actually wasn't bad. I was pleasantly surprised because I thought I'd hate it. I didn't. While it's still not quite the Darcy I had imagined it was plausible.

Duty and Desire is the second in the series. It spans the time between when Darcy first arrives in London having left Netherfield and before he goes to Rosings in Kent. It the the book for which there is the least to go on from Austen's original work and it is the weakest of the three books. It was actually quite bad. I had heard others say that it could likely be skipped without missing much but I think I may need to disagree. The first half of this book is actually not bad at all. You meet Georgiana and discover much about her as a person and her relationship with Darcy. You also meet a character that will play a somewhat minor but important part in the last novel, Lord Brougham (aka Dy). This novel goes downhill when Darcy leaves London to go to visit his old schoolmate Lord Sayre. And it really goes downhill. Some of the players in this appear in the third book though.

The one thing that Duty and Desire does well is bring out more of Darcy's relationship with his valet, Fletcher. I positively adore Fletcher. I could probably read a novel just about Fletcher. That's how much I like him.

These Three Remain brings up back into the fold of Austen's plot. Thank goodness. Again, like An Assembly Such as This Aidan does a pretty good job of following along with events in P&P. It begins with Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam travelling into Kent and ends with a "certain desirable event". Again I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it, particularly after the disappointing second book. I think my biggest complaint is that Georgiana seems to more or less drop from the book after Pemberly. I liked Georgiana, even if she didn't quite fit with the way I imagined in in Austen's work. And I liked the relationship between her and Darcy even if again, not quite as I imagined.

All in all, an interesting series. While I consider the events in the second book to be largely unfathomable the first and the third books are really quite nice companions to P&P. I personally would not recommend skipping the second book even though I did not like it but mainly because I know that it would drive me nuts to skip it. If you think that it would not bother you to have that blank go for it but it would drive me nuts.

In the interview with Aidan at the end of the book she indicates that she may follow it up with a sequel of sort to "tie up some deliberately left loose ends". If that happens I will likely read it although with caution. I did not enjoy the second book when she ran so far away from Austen's plot. But from the sounds of it Dy's storyline would intersect in a prominent way with the Darcy family and I liked Dy quite a bit. Cautiously hopeful perhaps?

One thing that I find interesting is how much the various movies have cast their light on how I picture the characters. Darcy is always Colin Firth. Elizabeth is an enigma and I have never been able to picture her clearly although occassionaly I do see Jennifer Ehle. The majority of characters do come from the BBC version but the two big exceptions are Jane Bennett who I always seem to picture as Rosamind Pike now. And I don't think you can beat Judy Dench as Lady Catherine.

Wytherngate Press is the publisher that brought us these books and is just on the cusp of releasing None But You the first in the Frederick Wentworth, Captain series by Susan Kaye, which aspires to do the same for Persuasion that Aidan did for P&P. At the moment it only seems to be available through that website. It looks to be followed up by For You Alone in December 2007.

Technorati tags: Pride and Prejudice, fan-fiction, An Asssembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, These Three Remain, Pamela Aidan, None But You, Susan Kaye.