Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World, by Abigail Reynolds
This particular book is a Pride & Prejudice Variation, where the author has chosen to change Pride & Prejudice at a point and then explore a changed scenario after that and see how it varies from the original novel that Jane Austen wrote. That, of course, makes this book a secondary book, but there are quite a lot of those books as they relate to Jane Austen, whether we are dealing with sequel or prequel attempts or books about Austen’s writing, and to read this book is certainly a pleasure that I can imagine being shared by other fans of her writing. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, there are going to be a few places that you can reliably go in order to have a good reading experience, and if one does not want to invent a whole host of new characters, this book does at least offer the pleasure of seeing Pride & Prejudice in a new light and appreciating the way that Austen chose to have the communication and moral development of Elizabeth and Darcy happen before they got together than have to take place in the melodramatic world of mismatched couples.
As a novel, this book is only about 200 pages, simply because it takes roughly the first half of Pride & Prejudice for granted as context and then looks at how Elizabeth would have agreed to marry Darcy if she felt herself compromised at his proposal and unable to reject it the way that she would have wanted to at that time. This leads to a period where the two have a sham marriage where both of them are alienated from each other and Georgiana thinks of Elizabeth as a gold-digger and so on. Elizabeth has a moment where she is tempted to commit suicide and where she is rejected by a hallucinating Darcy when she is taking care of him after a near-death experience with a wild animal. If all ends happily, it takes the novel a long time to show both Elizabeth and Darcy about their mutual love and concern and allow them to communicate matters with each other and work together as a couple. Interestingly enough, this novel ends up at a similar point to where Pride & Prejudice did, but instead of showing Elizabeth and Darcy working things out in their heads before getting together, it shows that painful process of miscommunication working itself out between two married people, which is less than ideal.
Still, while this book is by no means the sort of classic that Pride & Prejudice itself is, there is at least something about this book that is well worth appreciating, most notably the way that the author is able to capture a happy ending that feels deserved from a situation that is less than desirable. The novel makes it easy to empathize with both Darcy and Elizabeth and the way that they struggle to understand each other and recognize the decency that the other has. Darcy’s reserve and Elizabeth’s sharp wit and both of their sensitive hearts that are guarded by the way that they protect themselves through their approach to others do not always work well when put in the same household when neither side really understands the other well enough. If this novel ends happily, it goes into some pretty grim and unhappy territory and readers should be prepared for just how dark matters get as both Elizabeth and Darcy get near-death moments of various kinds. Jane Austen herself is to be appreciated for the way that her restraint and decorum prevented her from being a precursor to Edith Wharton, something we all can appreciate and celebrate.