Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer

The premise is intriguing: What was Darcy thinking? What were Darcy’s motivations for his actions? What is . . . Darcy’s story?

Janet Aylmer finally tells us all—or some, anyway.

The story begins before Wickham seduced Georgiana, and we get a lot of interesting background that could easily work with what we know from Pride and Prejudice. George Wickham, for instance, was named for his godfather, George Darcy, our Darcy’s dad. Georgiana doesn’t really like Caroline Bingley. Darcy mentally compares Lydia to Georgiana when Lydia demands that Bingley throw a ball.

Despite some interesting set-ups, for the first several chapters, the text feels alternately as though the narrator is explaining things to us (such as lines we already understand), and as though we’re reading a less perfect version of the story we already know and love. In fact, the best lines of Darcy’s Story are Austen’s, and we have already read almost entire chunks of this story.

Another weakness is that there are “revelations” that feel a bit inappropriate, like Elizabeth’s refusal to dance with Darcy at Netherfield exciting him, and an absence of revelations where we might benefit from some (for instance, what was Darcy thinking when Louisa and Caroline mock Elizabeth at Netherfield?)

But if a reader is patient, this story has some little gems awaiting discovery. Darcy’s view of Caroline Bingley, for instance, is brilliant wit: he “reflected to himself that she would not be an easy companion to any man.” The Netherfield Ball now reveals why Darcy looks so upset: he sees Lydia and Denny and Elizabeth and knows they’re talking about him and Wickham. There is the suggestion that Wickham has been performing his seduction of 15-year olds for some time. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet start to build their relationship at Netherfield—talking about books. Aylmer explains how it happens that Darcy returns to Pemberley before he is expected—a day before his sister, and several days before his guests. There’s a great image in Darcy’s mind of him strolling across the Pemberley green with Elizabeth—just before it actually occurs. The well-versed reader has much irony to savor here.

And, best of all, Aylmer flushes out Darcy’s relationship with Georgiana. It is through his confiding in his sister that Darcy comes to understand that he did wrong by Elizabeth in his first proposal. It is best, she tells him, a la Hillel and later Jesus, to “treat people  . . . with the politeness and consideration with which you would wish them to treat you” (but, of course, phrased as tentative question because of the nature of their relationship). Their relationship, and, in fact, all his coping after we see him propose disastrously, are skillfully handled here.

There are many good lines, and several of them don’t come directly from Austen but are clearly inspired by her. “There can,” Darcy thinks, “be no better way of appreciating the sufferings of those whose hearts have really been touched by love than by having the same affliction yourself.” Indeed, we now understand that Darcy leaves Meryton just as Bingley prepares to propose because he can’t bear to watch their joy in light of his own failed attempts to achieve it.

And Lady Catherine’s visit to Darcy AFTER her scene with Elizabeth is just tremendous fun, as is finally getting to hear what the “asking for her hand” conversation between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy sounds like. These heretofore hidden scenes, when combined with an Austen-ish flair in dialogue, make Darcy’s Story a worthwhile read.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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