Janet Aylmer






HarperCollins, reissue Aug 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Beneath the controlled, disdainful surface of Mr. Darcy, passions lurk. We know this because we have read Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. But we only know of his passions from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view, and Elizabeth is hardly unbiased. It would be more revealing to meet Darcy as he knows himself.

DARCY’S STORY introduces us to Darcy and his openhearted friend Mr. Bingley at Darcy’s luxurious estate of Pemberley, before the troubles begin. His sister Georgiana is an innocent child; Darcy’s habitual melancholy stems from their orphaned state. Pemberley and Bingley seem to be the bright points in his life. Alas, Georgiana is destined to be the target of fortune hunters, and the first one to try for her is their old steward’s son, the unscrupulous Mr. Wickham.

That dealt with, Darcy joins Bingley and his family at their newly leased estate in Hertfordshire, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE begins. Darcy is certainly not suited to the life of the small country gentleman. His wealth attracts people – most unfortunately, from his point of view. We see what he doesn’t: a young man in his twenties, not as skilled as he thinks he is at fending off insistent strangers who know nothing about him but are drawn by his money and good looks.

The young lady with the ability to dissolve his armor comes from an impossible family, vulgar and ill disciplined, whose wealth will come to an end with the death of their father. Elizabeth Bennet is strangely blind to his superiority of birth and fortune. Darcy and Elizabeth have much to learn from each other.

Author Janet Aylmer has been very careful not to stray from the story of Jane Austen’s classic. Everything Darcy is and does is already present in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, if you look as deeply as Aylmer has. Darcy’s viewpoint allows us to see things that Austen only told us about secondhand, like the search for Wickham in London. Events at the end of the book, which Jane Austen skimmed over, allow Aylmer to write some fresh scenes. The only place she reaches out into originality is in Darcy’s heartwarming relationship with Georgiana.

Any story of this type must be severely restricted. It allows no changes in plot, only in character interpretation. So I was surprised to find on Amazon that three other books with this same concept have been published since DARCY’S STORY first came out in 1996. I haven’t had time to get my hands on them, to see what justifies the repetition. Comparing Darcy books could become an interesting study.

“Janet Aylmer” is the pen name of a mysterious “English Jane Austen enthusiast who lives in Bath.” That is all we are told. Guessing only by the tone of the storytelling, I couldn’t tell if the writer was a man, or a woman who had taken on a man’s voice. It wasn’t until the Author’s Discussion at the end that I decided it had to be a woman. Kudos to Janet Aylmer, whoever she is, for so successfully putting herself into Darcy’s mind.

DARCY’S STORY is a sympathetic revisit to a long-loved tale. It is a pleasure to immerse oneself again in the familiar surroundings and watch from a new direction as events unfold.

Sep 2006


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