Book 1 of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. Mr. Darcy, a rich, powerful man with a large estate and a beloved younger sister to take care of, accompanies his friend Mr. Bingley to Bingley’s newly rented estate in Hartfordshire. While believing himself to be a man of the world, Darcy is reserved around strangers, and feels awkward around them. It is in Maryton that he meets the witty and enigmatic Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Their frequent crossing of verbal swords delights and intrigues him, and he feels himself becoming deeply attracted to her. However, he has his fortune, his place in society, and most important of all, his impressionable younger sister Georgiana to think of.
Old books are like old friends, aren’t they? Cards on the table, I’ve read this series a few times now. My grandma bought it for me when I was a teenager, and every once in a while I read my way through them and enjoy them all over again. It’s my personal opinion that of all the “P&P from Darcy’s perspective!” books out there, this series is the best. I haven’t found one so far that I like as much, or that really explains Darcy’s behavior as well. Finally, I feel like I know and like Darcy for who he is. Certainly dear Jane acknowledges that Elizabeth is an unreliable narrator – she lets her prejudice cloud her judgment of Darcy’s behavior. So it’s nice to see his side of the story. He’s not a very reliable narrator either, but between the two stories we get some semblance of the truth.
There are three books in this series, and it’s very interesting to see the events of P&P unfold as Darcy sees them. For instance, what Elizabeth sees as Darcy being cold and haughty, he sees as them engaging in verbal sparring. Basically, he thinks Elizabeth is flirting with him. And you can’t really blame him for thinking that. He’s just come from London, where every young lady and her mama in the whole city are trying to entice him. There isn’t a single unattached female in London who would turn him down, so you can’t blame him for it not entering his mind that Elizabeth would. He thinks they’re playing, while Elizabeth just thinks he’s being a jerk.
I really like the way other characters are fleshed out in this trilogy. Specifically, Georgiana and a new character, Darcy’s valet Fletcher. Georgiana is shown as a young lady who used to be painfully shy, and who is just now starting to grow up and find her footing. After her disastrous attempted elopement with Wickham, she was depressed and even more shy, and Darcy worries about her constantly. We get to know her primarily through her letters to him, but we begin to see her coming out of her shyness, taking responsibility for her actions with Wickham, and growing as a person. I know I said I hated letters in these kinds of books, but here’s a book that uses letters to further the plot, not to rehash what has already happened. The letters don’t detract here.
The other character that I really came to enjoy is Darcy’s valet Fletcher. He is, of course, not in the original P&P. Mostly because why in the world would Elizabeth ever interact with Darcy’s valet? So inserting him into the story loses nothing from the original. Fletcher is something like Darcy’s conscience, keeping him on track as he tries to navigate both the Bingley and the Bennet families. He uses Shakespeare quotes to subtly and respectfully tell Darcy when he thinks Darcy is acting like an idiot. Although he’s Darcy’s servant, he’s also a close confidant, and allows Darcy to talk through some of his more troubling feelings about the women in his life. He even gets a character arc in a somewhat Downton Abbey- esque way. Nice to see a secondary character treated with care and respect.
I really began to identify with Darcy throughout this book. You definitely start to see things from his point of view. As far as he is concerned, Hartfordshire is the middle of nowhere, and the Bennets are little better than farmers. He’s on his guard for fortune hunters, and really thinks he’s doing the best thing for Bingley when he detaches him from Jane Bennet. And really, from his point of view, Mrs. Bennet is a tabby cat, licking her chops for Bingley’s 5000 pounds of cream, and her daughters may very well be fortune hunters. Darcy has certainly had experience with those. So you can’t blame him for trying to rescue Bingley from marrying a girl who (in Darcy’s view) doesn’t love him, and will only use him to get her sisters better marriages. After all, isn’t that exactly what Mrs. Bennet said was the plan at the Netherfield Ball?
He wants to do the right thing, but isn’t sure how to go about it. He loves his sister and is worried about her, and he passionately hates Wickham for nearly ruining her. He’s socially awkward and doesn’t really know how to function in a society that doesn’t know him, which makes sense when you consider that he’s been acquainted with the crème of society practically since birth. I felt for Darcy, and started to get annoyed with Elizabeth for not seeing him clearly. Look, Elizabeth, I know you think he’s a jerk, but he thinks you’re flirting, so you can’t blame him for ‘flirting’ back to you, and you can’t be angry when he gets the wrong idea about your receptiveness to him.
This right here is what these kinds of “other sides of the story” books are supposed to do. They’re supposed to make us really like the main character, really come to identify with them. In Darcy’s eyes, every single one of his actions is completely justified and rational.
These are definitely worth it to buy, keep on your shelf, and read over and over again. If only to remind you that there are two sides to every story, and everyone thinks that what they are doing is perfectly rational and reasonable. There are two more books in this series, so stay tuned for the reviews of those as I finish with them.