These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan

The title of this retelling of Pride and Prejudice comes from Corinthians, the “three remain[ing]” being faith, hope, and love.  The Christian references remain light until, first, Darcy and Fitzwilliam travel to Kent and hear Lady Catherine annoyed about religious fanatics (with whom Darcy seems to feel some sympathy, since being a devout Christian has helped Georgiana cope with the aftermath of the Wickham fiasco) and later, when Darcy and Georgiana are reunited. The debate of passion versus restraint is very interesting, but Austen didn’t discuss such religious fervor in her work, and I’m not entirely sure if she had, she would have sided as Aidan seems to. The religious references sometimes become annoying, perhaps because again, Austen just didn’t do this. Georgiana, for instance, calms her brother with a story of a “foolish young girl who, save for the mercy of G-d, nearly ruined her family” (hypen, mine) (220). Darcy’s “pride” takes on the feel of a sin when Georgiana accuses him of taking pride in a confession (222); Austen didn’t handle morality in this manner, and, in P & P, not all pride is bad. Both Darcy and Elizabeth defend pride when it is possessed and used properly, and Austen’s text argues in favor of proper usage, not elimination. Several characters here seem concerned about people “going Methodist,” and altogether, I found the constant intrusion of religion into the story a distraction from the story, rather than an enhancement.

To be fair, I found the anti-religious views equally irritating (such as Dy’s comment that Georgiana only forgives Darcy because “she would have to now, would she not? . . . . religious as she is” (227). It isn’t fair to say that religious people only do nice things because their religion makes them.

Aidan uses language quite beautifully in many places, beginning with the “verbal ice shower” (2) and continuing with a description of one soul  rushing “to claim, to embrace that other half of itself with a joyful recognition” (28). Finally, someone enjoys Mr. Collins’ fatuous ramblings; Colonel Fitzwilliam loves hearing the rector talk. I enjoyed many of the narrator’s turns of phrase.

Darcy’s experience is richly enhanced in this version. We come to understand that he has multiple causes for stress (24), he has been involved with some reckless, possibly even dangerous acquaintances in his attempt to find a suitable wife (3), and he truly believes Elizabeth to know his intentions when he makes his (first) proposal. Darcy longs to know what Elizabeth reads (40), and Elizabeth makes Darcy know himself early on (63)—nice parallel. Aidan provides an interesting look at a much familiar conversation, adding why and what Darcy hears (58-59) and adds an additional motive for why Darcy goes to Hunsford the morning where they sit alone, awkwardly (she had urged him to practice, so he takes her advice!).  After the proposal, Darcy tells Fitzwilliam a partial truth, and Fitzwilliam pledges to tell Elizabeth that very day that Darcy was being honest about Wickham and Georgiana—but, as we know, Elizabeth stays out walking, and misses them both, and thus never receives Fitzwilliam’s confirmation. We really see Darcy’s misery after the first proposal, and our sympathy for him almost excuses his refusal to confide in Georgiana when she begs him to share his grief. We also learn that Darcy thinks at first his interference in the Lydia business would be considered officious; he is now conscious of how Elizabeth perceives him. His decision to do it anyway reflects not brash arrogance but willing self-abnegation. He loves Elizabeth so much he wants to save her even if she would despise him for his behavior if she knew of it.

Fletcher, Darcy’s valet, is a wonderful (in both senses) addition to the story. He knows that Darcy is in love before Darcy discusses it with anyone, and he does little valet-things to help make Darcy more comfortable and more ready to make Elizabeth his wife. (A strange sidenote not picked up again: Fletcher is selfishly motivated by the fact that his fiancée is Miss Bennet’s mistress, and she refuses to leave Elizabeth to marry until Elizabeth is married. How did that happen? 137). Fletcher is almost unbelievably literate, reciting Shakespearean sonnets, Hamlet, and various poems as though he has been schooled at Oxford or Cambridge. The story does eventually give a plausible reason for Fletcher’s knowledge, but the story doesn’t adequately address why it never occurred to Darcy to question his valet’s source of poetry. Darcy treats his valet with respect and esteem, and I loved how that works to Darcy’s favor when the two go to discover Wickham and Lydia. As in Austen, what happens ultimately  is good and just.

Darcy’s relationship with Bingley takes on new ridges in Aidan’s version. When Darcy realizes what he has done to Charles, he tries to fix it in more than one way, including by building up Bingley’s self-esteem so he won’t feel he has to trust others over himself. I particularly liked hearing Darcy telling Bingley what has been happening between Darcy and Elizabeth; this humbling needs to happen for them to be real equals. It also helps create a delightful scene in which the two men plan to get lost while walking with their intendeds. Finally, they conspire to get what they both want.

For the most part, in These Three Remain, Aidan gives us what we want, too.

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Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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