Ever notice that when you’re feeling a bit low you have a tendency to reach for something that is comfortable and familiar? Lately, that means a trip into the world of Jane Austen for a bit of a pick me up. Yet every time I pick up one of the six texts, I find myself asking the same question, what happened next? Our heroes and heroines found their partners; there was a big wedding, lots of happy tears, but then what? Did they live happily ever after or did they separate? Did any of the supporting characters find a partner or were they doomed for spinsterhood? Now Jane Austen did answer a few of those questions in letters to family and friends, but I prefer reading about the adventures that occurred after the books end. Thankfully, where Jane Austen has failed me, many great writers and fans of her work have taken it upon themselves to pick up the stories where they left off. Here are a few of my favourites.
The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men By Jack Caldwell brings together Colonel Fitzwilliam (Darcy’s cousin), Colonel Brandon (Sense & Sensibility) and introduces Colonel Buford. Brandon is happily married to Marianne, while Fitzwilliam and Buford pursue Lady Anne and Caroline Bingley respectively. But when the men are suddenly recalled into active service in the aftermath of Napoleon’s escape from exile, will love triumph over war? I found this book to be a wonderful read and somewhat hilarious in the fact that a new character had to be created to partner with Caroline. For any of you who have seen Lost in Austen, the film gives several new twists, including presenting Caroline as a lesbian, thus justifying her insistence on Darcy’s wealth and position over the man himself. It just goes to show that anything can happen in these newer interpretations.
An Assembly Such as This By Pamela Aidan for the time, presents Darcy’s perspective regarding the events in Pride & Prejudice. The first of a trilogy, I found Pamela’s insight into the mind of Darcy to be rather refreshing. His emotions for Elizabeth and turmoil over the presence of Wickham take on a clarity that has not been seen before. Duty and Desire focuses on the time that is never spoken of in the book, which concerns Darcy’s struggles with his attraction to Elizabeth, while also taking care of both Pemberley and his social engagements in London. While the novel may read like a swashbuckling adventure, I must admit, it was quite enjoyable. These Three Remain picks up with Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy’s proposal, leading Darcy to self-reflect and become a better man due to her refusal. When Elizabeth appears at Pemberley, Darcy feels as if he has been offered a second chance, but when Wickham threatens Elizabeth’s happiness, it is up to Darcy to find a way of making things right. While Pamela stays pretty close to the text, she manages to shed new light on characters and situations which answers the question as to what else was happening.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star By Heather Lynn Rigaud, as the title suggests, takes the reader away from the Regency period and places Darcy and Elizabeth in the middle of the modern world. Darcy is the guitarist for Slurry, the newest all male rock group to take the world by storm. Elizabeth is the lead singer for Long Borne Suffering, the new opening female act for Slurry. But Slurry’s bad boy image may prove to be too much for the new girls on the block, unless some new understandings are reached. Since we are in the modern world, only the names and circumstances reflect the actual text. But I found the text to be a nice light read, as opposed to the above trilogy, which basically asked if the core of Pride & Prejudice could endure a complete transplant. It can, which proves that the heart of a good story can survive just about any major change.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies By Seth Grahame-Smith, despite its title, is probably the most faithful to the original text. What would happen to our well-sung heroes if they were presented with a new challenge that altered the society in which they lived but did not affect its mentality? In a nutshell, Seth added zombies to the world of Regency England. Yet despite their undead presence, society refuses to yield its moral stance on marriage, good manners and changes within the social classes. What’s a girl to do when she and her sisters can slay a small zombie army yet still be criticized for the society that they keep? While this may not be the most imaginative version of Pride & Prejudice, it is certainly highly entertaining. If you feel that you need a lighter version of this story, take a look at the graphic novel, or better yet the new film with Lily James (Downton Abbey’s cousin Rose) and Sam Riley (Maleficent’s Diaval).
This list is by no means exhaustive, so type in Jane Austen or Darcy, books or films in the search engine and find yourself in a world that moves just a bit slower then our own. Happy Reading! (or watching as the case may be).