Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Does America

Published:  August 9th, 2011
Darcy on the Hudson: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining
By: Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing, LLC
ISBN-13:  9780615513263

When Fitzwilliam Darcy, Georgiana Darcy, and Charles Bingley set sail from England for New York, each travels with a different purpose in mind.  Georgiana wants to put a particularly jarring episode with a family friend in the past, and Charles wishes to visit his Uncle Richard in an exciting new land.  For Darcy, it is an opportunity to explore the possibilities of new sources of wealth in the expanding United States, but once Darcy meets American, Elizabeth Bennet, it is the beginning of a love story.  But will their differences and a possible second war between Britain and America keep them apart? (Summary courtesy of Goodreads)

My Thoughts

     I read A LOT of Pride & Prejudice sequels, re-imaginings, etc.  I have an insane weakness for more Jane Austen, in whatever form I can get it (minus stuff like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, which is lazily repetitive crap).  When I am bored and have money to burn on Amazon for Kindle books, I usually get a P&P retelling that is lounging away on my wishlist.  As someone who has seen Simonsen's books around at the library, I knew she was a fairly respected Austen revisionist.  When I saw that this one had the Bennets as Americans, was set on the verge of the War of 1812 and had some other changes, I immediately dived in.  The idea is that Darcy and Georgiana go along to America with Bingley to escape the situation with Wickham and Darcy also is interested in funding the Eerie Canal Project (along with Mr. Bennet and some other investors, believe it or not).  Oh and joy of joys, Caroline and Louisa are the daughters of Bingley's Uncle, instead of his sisters.  These are the basic details of the plot.
     Probably my favorite thing about this book, that we don't get all that much of in the original Pride & Prejudice, is all of the political/current events that are going on during that time period on a grander level.  We also get a lot of details and information in general regarding American history such as it is in 1811 (i.e. the American Revolution) and the settlement of the Dutch people that Mrs. Bennet is descended from.  The fact that Austen meant to show how isolated people were in the country and the relations in society between people (without bringing politics and current events into the mix) were the main focus, I can understand the lack of context to the events of the time period.  But as an American, I definitely enjoyed the history lesson on my country and the interesting way it was delivered.  Also the look at the differences in customs between England and America in 1811 (degree of formality, the type of work done by landed gentry, etc.) was very intriguing.  So this was not a complaint for me, unlike for some other readers.
     My other thoughts are on the overall representation of the Bennet family itself in this book.  I appreciated above all else that Simonsen never turned either parent into a villain.  They were remade in the image of their surroundings, with Mrs. Bennet becoming a levelheaded and hardworking Dutchwoman.  She was of good moral standing and insisted on educating her girls in running a household, cooking, cleaning, taking care of animals and doing chores in general so they would be capable in hard times as well.  It was an interesting take on a character who is normally just a caricature.  As for Mr. Bennet, he has enough wealth that the girls don't have to worry about finding husbands.  With a loving marriage and a wife who experience the devastation of war firsthand, they are both stricter with silly Lydia and Kitty than in the first novel.  The friendships between Kitty, Lydia, Mary and Georgiana were nicely developed.  The one thing I feel was lacking was the overall growth of the relationships between Elizabeth and Darcy & Jane and Bingley.  There were interactions, misunderstandings and moments to set your heart afflutter.  But I felt like the deeper connections were hollowed out in favor of the history.  There were some notable exceptions to the characters included (I especially missed Fitzwilliam and Wickham had far less page time - a plus for me personally!).  It could have stood to be another 100 pages longer to add in more romantic development.  Other than that, this is one of the best Austen re-imaginings that I've personally ever read.  If you want a fresh perspective on a favorite tale, I'd highly recommend it! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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