Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book Review: Letters From Pemberley

The second Jane Austen book I was sent and asked to review is Letters From Pemberley: the First Year by Jane Dawkins. (You can read my first review, of Old Friends and New Fancies, here.)

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As the title implies, Letters From Pemberley: the First Year is a series of twenty-five letters from the new Mrs. Darcy (aka Elizabeth Bennet) to her sister, the new Mrs. Bingley (aka Jane Bennet). Readers of Pride and Prejudice will remember that a letter played an important part in changing Elizabeth's feelings about Darcy, so Dawkins choice of letters as her medium fits quite well.

Dawkins described her work as "an old-fashioned patchwork quilt, where in place of the scraps of fabric . . . there is a line or a phrase or a sentence from one of Jane Austen's books or letters stitched alongside the lesser scraps" of Dawkins' work. She also took favorite characters from other Austen novels, gave them different names, and worked them into Lizzie's letters. It was very amusing to pick out who was who or which lines were from which books or letters (I even kept a little list! It is quite gratifying to figure these things out!).

I quite enjoyed Letters From Pemberley: the First Year and was glad that Dawkins did not feel the need to make Lizzie, Darcy, Jane, Bingley, Georgiana, and other characters new again. We read Jane Austen novels repeatedly because Jane created such realistic and fabulous characters. I think too often people try to "improve" upon them, which just cannot be done. Dawkins also understands this and wrote these letters in Lizzie Bennet Darcy's persona, not some other Lizzie's. I can easily imagine Jane having written these herself.

Lizzie is adjusting to life as mistress of Pemberley and wife of Mr. Darcy, attempting to develop a deeper relationship with Darcy's sister, Georgiana, and find her place in a higher level of society than she is used to living in. As much as her family drove her crazy on occasion, she misses being with them. Her letters to Jane describe her activities, her feelings, and her hopes.

Elizabeth and Jane are closest to each other out of the five Bennet daughters and their letters provide solace as they make their ways in their new lives. I can imagine doing the same with my sister (if she wrote letters).

I look forward to reading Letters From Pemberley: the First Year again (and figuring out more of Jane's lines!) and would recommend it to any Austen fan! You can find it at any bookstore. Do pick up a copy and let us know what you think!

Book Information: Letters from Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins (ISBN: 978-1-4022-0906-2; May 2007; $13.95 U.S./ $17.95 CAN; paperback)

My thanks to Cathy at Sourcebooks, Inc.!


Ms. Place said...

First, what a lovely cover for a book. Second, your review makes me want to read the book. Well done!

Lady Jane said...

Isn't it lovely looking? I especially like the swirls, which are also used in the book on the "chapter" pages (that differentiate the letters). It was a very good, quick read!