Book Review: An Assembly Such As This

4 Dec

Within the past several years, it seems that more and more adaptations of Jane Austen’s amazing novels are springing forth in creative literature and film.  Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to explore some of the pieces that I’ve found to be most entertaining.

The first book I’d like to tackle is An Assembly Such As This, the first novel in a series by Pamela Aidan.  I’m not at all surprised that I really enjoyed the first novel of the series, since Aidan has been a librarian for over 30 years, and has loved Jane Austen’s works for even longer.

The novel begins with Darcy’s visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley.  At last, the readers gets a glimpse into the thoughts of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the beloved hero of Pride and Prejudice.  Though we will never have the opportunity to read Austen’s opinion on the subject, I can’t help but think that she would enjoy the first book in Aidan’s series.

For the first time, we get to experience the anguish that Darcy feels as his attraction for Elizabeth grows.  Rather than writing Darcy off as judgmental, Aidan presents Darcy’s thoughts in particular instances where Elizabeth’s family show themselves to be rather improper.  He also recognizes, however, Elizabeth’s attempts to stop their inappropriate behavior, and perhaps this is just one reason why Darcy’s attraction to her continually grows, despite his best efforts.

A hilarious addition to the novel is Darcy’s continual avoidance of the flirtacious advances of Caroline Bingley.  We see this particularly in the scenes where Elizabeth stays at Netherfield to attend to an ill Jane.  Elizabeth notices Caroline’s attempts to engage Darcy, and often laughs softly or shoots knowing looks at him during Miss Bingley’s advances.

We also meet some new characters, including Fletcher, Darcy’s quick-witted, well-read valet.  I found it pretty hilarous that Fletcher catches on to Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth, and even manipulates his master into wearing an outfit that will match Elizabeth’s clothing on a particular outing.

I particularly enjoyed the scene at the ball hosted by Charles where Darcy approaches Elizabeth to ask her to dance.  Seeing Elizabeth fumble through the eyes of our favorite hero was enormously entertaining.  Seeing him approach every conversation with Elizabeth as a fencing match of sorts only adds to the hilarity.

There are so many instances within the text that I wish I could highlight, but that would take all day.  Despite some rather lengthy passages, if you’re looking for an entertaining read, and another side of Austen’s famous hero, look no further than An Assembly Such As This.

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