The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice by Abigail Reynolds

Our heroine Cassie is a researcher with the Maine Biological Laboratory in New England. She is passionate about salt marshes, and little else that we know about when the story opens, but, largely through the development of a relationship with Calder, a wealthy politician’s son, we learn a lot more about her. The two meet at a folk dance, where Erin (Jane) and Scott (Bingley) dance the night away. Calder is, of course, the tall man standing alone in shadow, refusing to dance, and Cassie quickly makes assumptions about him. Pride and Prejudice, obviously.

The link is also obvious to Calder. The first reference to Austen comes in the form of Calder’s book, which retells the story of P & P (much as this one does) with him in Darcy’s role, and Cassie in Elizabeth’s. Her stinging rejection—“I am not a rich man’s toy”—in their real lives parallels Lizzy’s “Had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner,” but Calder’s novel ends sadly, because, at the point of writing, so has the relationship.

Then, of course, Cassie reads the book, which functions as Darcy’s letter in P & P. Until this moment, Elizabeth/Cassie never knew herself, and, in fact, our understanding of her character only becomes possible after this shocking revelation. This happens, in part because Scott/Bingley told Cassie that her favorite writer and most memorable lover are, in fact, one man (a sort of reversal of the helping role Darcy plays in reuniting Bingley and Jane in the original), and in part because Calder tries to be close to Cassie by seeking a position at the university where she teaches. Meanwhile, Cassie learns that Annette (Anne) is the woman Calder’s father (Lady Catherine) wanted for him.

Not all parallels are immediately clear (Rob Elliot may seem to be Wickham, at first, but you’ll have to decide if that still fits by the end), and there are two possible stand-ins for the Gardiners. Darcy’s rescue appears in different form here, but also as a surprise he didn’t expect her to discover. Caro (Caroline?) is not connected in any way to Bingley and does seem initially to be cold and heartless like her original, but doesn’t turn out that way . . . Cassie’s siblings don’t neatly match up with Elizabeth’s, but Calder is able, in his own way, to assist one of them.

Republicans get unfairly stereotyped here (as allowing children to go hungry and people to die from treatable illnesses), but the excitement of the political dynasty, the family drama, and the speeches almost make that prejudice bearable.

In short, if you seek a psychological and political drama with a love story that draws from Pride and Prejudice, this is a book to put on your list.

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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