10 August 2010

Everything Austen II - First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice - Alexa Adams

Summary: In Pride and Prejudice Fitzwilliam Darcy begins his relationship with Elizabeth Bennet with the words: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to  give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men." What would have happened if Mr. Darcy had never spoken so disdainfully? First Impressions explores how the events of Jane Austen's beloved novel would have transpired if Darcy and Elizabeth had danced together at the Meryton Assembly. Jane and Bingley's relationship blossoms unimpeded, Mary makes a most fortunate match, and Lydia never sets a foot in Brighton. Austen's witty style is authentically invoked in this playful romp from Longbourn to Pemberley.

Thoughts: I suggest you need not read the apology at the beginning of the book, though it was funny, it was quite unnecessary. There are many things to enjoy in this book, some familiar, some more exaggerated, some more calmly rendered, but the characters are true to themselves and the original. I have decided the thing that makes me most happy with a Miss Austen-related retelling or new work using Miss Austen's characters, in part or full, is the openness that must come from our own frustration when characters in the original don't say what they need to or do so too late.  Is this a 21st century sensibility that make much more sense to readers? Or is it that characters often say what I would say (some examples below).
What an interesting take on Pride & Prejudice! The Bennett family is still at their best to embarrass the two eldest daughters and drive Mr. Bennett to distraction. Caroline Bingley is much the same, but Louisa seems to have grown tired of Caroline trying (in vain) to catch Mr. Darcy. It's also nice to see Darcy not being (excuse my language) such an ass when we first meet him at the assembly. Elizabeth tolerates him well - she's level-headed, understanding, and while lively as ever, not provoking.   
Since we all know Pride & Prejudice, I hope that not much is considered a spoiler, but if you have not read First Impressions and want all the surprises (and I think you do), you may stop here and come back after you're finished. 
This book moves quickly, or should I say Charles Bingley does. It doesn't take long after Jane's stay at Netherfield, extended due to illness, that Bingley realizes he's head-over-hearts in love and is fairly confident that Jane is likewise. Her are two lovely changes - Darcy is perfectly pleased with the idea of Jane and Bingley together and Caroline rants that the Bennett girls are beneath Charles - she appeals to Darcy for assistance. As Caroline makes several mistakes during a fit of anger, Darcy replies, "Surely my position in society is a great deal different than your brother's. You forget what he just acknowledged, that your social status is rather closer to the Bennetts than to mine." Now that's just a set down right there. And lovely Charles finally gets backbone, "If you wish to live with me Caroline, you must cease this line of conduct!" Well, if that doesn't send a lady to her room with a headache, I don't know what does. It's so nice that Jane does not have to go through months of sadness. sigh. 
Mr. Collins arrives as expected and plans to choose his wife from one of the beautiful Bennett girls he's heard of. Well, not quite. In the end, perhaps he isn't so stupid as we thought and picks the girl that will be a good minister's wife - the pious, but plain Mary Bennett. While Mrs. Bennett is pleased, but somewhat surprised, Mr. Bennett just kills me with this response to his wife, "If you desire to live out your years in residence with Mr. Collins, the match will of course, receive my blessing, but I for one will be glad to be dead, buried, and rid of the man."  Can I get an Amen!
I have to admit, I'd been waiting for it - the arrival of Wickham. What was this twist going to be and I was pleased to see that Mr. Darcy did the right thing. He informed Mr. Bennett of Wickham's true character and put him on his guard. It's apparent to most of the characters with a little intelligence that Mr. Darcy isn't doing this for his own professed reasons - it's starting to show -- his interested in Elizabeth. Mr. Bennett is forward enough to ask what his intentions are to his favorite daughter. When Darcy tells Elizabeth of Wickham's character and the attempt on his sister Georgiana, Darcy notes, "Astonished, outrage, and tenderness all betrayed one decisive fact. She cared deeply for him and his sister. He knew then that he unequivocally loved her." sigh. 
I can't give away all except to say, that Wickham is still Wickham and he gets what he deserves in one of the most ironic ways possible - loved it! Lady Catherine manages to deal with it -- sort of. And the special plans for Lydia and Kitty - I never would have thought it possible! Weddings take place and all ends well. 

This is a short book and fast read, but filled with so many pithy lines and great set ups, you'll be so pleased once you've read it. I personally think this is a lovely way to read Pride & Prejudice. Just do it. Outstanding Alexa!!


  1. Lovely review! It was such a wonderful book, wasn't it? I love the quotes you selected!

  2. Good review on a book I enjoyed very much. I'm not one for all that angst between Darcy and Elizabeth, so this book could have been written just for me.

  3. I do think it was just lovely. Not so much suspense perhaps, but not so much pain for characters I really like.

    Thanks Pat & Meredith for the comments.

  4. This review reminds me of "backwards day" when I was little, with all the characters taking a different turn. I'll have to pick this novel up.


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