Retelling Book Review: An Assembly Such as This

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I’m pretty mad at the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. The main reason? It is a point-for-point retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Why on earth did Pamela Aidan write it as a trilogy? Did she think she knew better than the queen, Jane Austen? There is absolutely no reason why she took three books to say what one of the most classic and adored books of all time did in one! All it basically is, is a different POV. It even tried to emulate the style of writing (which no, of course it doesn’t really do, because, again, JANE AUSTEN). That’s not entirely fair. It doesn’t straight up emulate her style, but basically it leans that way instead of what you would typically write today.

Pride and Prejudice, indeed all of Austen’s writing, just crackles in every sentence, either with humor, subtlety, intrigue, or wit. I can’t imagine trying to re-write the story like I was a Victorian writer, but suffice it to say that the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy was destined to fall flat in comparison. So it did. It was meandering and many times pointlessly flowery and romantic. It felt juvenile, even, like Aidan didn’t understand what Austen’s language is accomplishing in Pride and Prejudice. Aidan wants to sound a certain way, to read historical, and the effect is sometimes silly while also being long-winded. Not to mention, a few times I didn’t know what Aidan was trying to even show me. Austen was a master, partly due to the society in which she wrote, of giving us the clear picture from behind a cupped hand. She couldn’t come right out and say it, but she sure could get us to go, “Oh! I see.” Smirk-smirk. I can see Aidan trying to do this as well, but I wasn’t always catching on.

I was okay dipping back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, though, because I like this world. But by the middle of the first book, An Assembly Such As This, I was quite bored. Because nothing is happening. Mostly we’re just wandering around Netherfield fawning over the exasperating Elizabeth from inside Darcy’s head. Look, if Aidan were going to justify a different POV from the one Austen took (on purpose; Austen knew what she was doing), then some new characters and plotlines would have to come in in the background of the story we’re used to seeing from Elizabeth’s end. We’re going to have to learn something new, something interesting about Darcy or Elizabeth or the story. As the first book drags on, we finally get some new characters but somehow, even though we want to like them, still nothing happens. Now, Darcy’s just wandering around London instead of Netherfield Hall, hanging out with peeps we’ve never seen, but they are pointless to plot. Anything that happens is not the least bit going somewhere. While a few of these later scenes were humorous and some of the characters interesting, I kept waiting for some real mystery or plot twist… and nope; we’re still just wandering around waiting for Austen’s original story to sneak back in and save us. So upon finishing, I just about threw the book across the room. Why not deliver on the romance at the end of one book, like Austen?! There is no other point to these books and the end of book one is simply random. Ran-dom. Nothing gets fulfilled in the least way; small fulfillments are how trilogies and series WORK. Like some plot (or plots) have to come to a climax and resolution. Even the goofy, cravat and sheer-dress scandals near the end of book one come so completely out of nowhere (which they didn’t have to. Aidan could have built them up through the whole book) and resolved within a few mere pages and an “It’s okay. It’ll blow over.” There is no hero in this book, at all, because the change and the release won’t come for another two books. No stakes. No conflict. Bah!

I also had the sense that there was some real inauthenticity going on, like Aidan couldn’t quite slip into the skin of a regency author/world, but I wanted to believe she had gotten everything right and could, indeed, see her research (maybe a little too obviously). But something felt off from all the actual Vic lit I have read and sometimes it felt like she was inadvertently making fun of it. BUT I was enjoying one thing: reading Pride in Prejudice in different words. Yet I was not at all sure I wanted to read the rest of the trilogy, especially since I felt duped into it. (Even the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series covers the events of Pride and Prejudice in ONE of the books, so you can just read that one (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the middle one) if you want the love story re-told.)

Why the heck, then, did I go to the library and check out books two and three: Duty and Desire and These Three Remain? I think it was because it felt like I had read only a third of the book, because, really, that was true. Book one just stops at the last page of An Assembly Such As This and picks up at Duty and Desire. It seemed obscene to stop where the book does, so despite feeling duped and disappointed, I grabbed the other two books (because I knew I wouldn’t need to own them). I mean, I do love the Pride and Prejudice story, Darcy wasn’t being ruined for me, and it’s not that difficult to read the books. I thought that if I gave up partway through and picked up a different retelling, so be it. I’ve read one whole book, anyhow, and can tell you what I think about that. (It’s not very nice, though, is it?)

That is actually what happened. I got maybe a fifth of the way in on Duty and Desire and got jealous of my husband actually enjoying the book he was reading next to me. Also, I realized I couldn’t stand Georgiana—a character I usually like—and couldn’t figure out why Darcy was so perplexed at her maturing in the several months he was away. I think Aidan was trying to create tension with what is already in Pride and Prejudice, but it was simply long, boring, and goofy. Looking ahead, there are going to be more of Aidan’s little forays into antics with other characters, but I am worried that these will be other to the plot and Darcy, so I have to call it. Especially after I read sentences like this:

“The dimple that cleft his cheek was swiftly matched by its feminine counterpart as Georgiana returned his loving gaze. Softly, she slipped into his arms once more. ‘Oh, Fitzwilliam, I am ever so glad you are home!’ / His arms tightly woven about her, Darcy looked thankfully to Heaven and then, burying his face into her gathered curls, could only find the strength to whisper in reply, ‘No more than I, dearest. No more than I’” (p35).

I’ll try not to call what I have just read sappy and laughable, because I am sure someone somewhere thinks this writing is pretty and well-done. But I am all done. I have too many exciting books to read to continue with this trilogy that should have been a book, with the droning on about empty spaces and how good Darcy is with horses. (I also only committed to reading the first book, so…) I didn’t exactly hate these books (what I read of them), but I did find them bo-ring and unpleasantly arranged. As far as retellings of Pride and Prejudice, there are definitely better and I don’t think the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy (or even the first book) should be on the best-ofs list.


Are not the wounds of a friend blessed?” (p198).

“’The heart that is conscious of its own integrity is ever slow to credit another’s treachery’” (p205).


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