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An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan; Review

October 1, 2009

An Assembly Such as This

Title: An Assembly Such as This

Author: Pamela Aiden

Published: 2006 by Simon & Schuster

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: 4/5

 

Quote:

His pacing brought him to the bookshelf, and with hopes that the discipline involved in following the course of a battle would restore his thoughts to order, he plucked Fuentes de Oñorofrom its place and dropped into a chair by the fire. Stretching out his legs to the hearth, he slid his finger along the pages and opened the book to the place held for him by the embroidery threads. As he bent to read, the words blurred in his vision, cast into incomprehensibility by the glint of the firelight on the knotted strands of silk that lay across his page. Elizabeth! How he had resisted every thought of her! His breath quickened as a flood of memories overpowered his mind: Elizabeth at the door of Netherfield, hesitant but determined; on the stair, tired, but faithful in the care of her sister; in the drawing room, with arched brow challenging his character; at the pianoforte, unconscious of the grace she had brought to her song; at the ball, Milton’s Eve, sparkling of eye, suffused with Edenic loveliness.

Review:

Before I plunge into the depths of Austenesque thoughts and a review abounding with praise and in sore need of criticsm, I must disclose some information on my own reading guidelines: 1) I hardly ever, under any circumstances, read a book set in the 19th century written by a living, breathing, and quite present author, and 2) I never read books that have coveted another author’s characters.

Are you sensing a “but”?

But… I have succumbed to Pamela Aidan’s irrefutably seductive powers (and the united persuasion of my mother and her friend). It seems all my standards regarding books have been thrown in with the slushy, pungent contents of the dumpster that loyally visits my cul-de-sac every Wednesday morning and slowly tossed and turned until they were completely contaminated. They have no hop

Not only does Pamela Aidan’s book “take” Jane Austen’s characters, it “takes” her most prominent, beloved, and intriguing characters and love story—Fitzwilliam Darcy, his seemingly unsuitable suitor, Elizabeth Bennet and their troubling journey as they struggle to allow their instinctive balance to abandon them and consequently leave them with no choice but to finally relinquish their “pride and prejudice” and fall in love—like every one of their dedicated fans begged them to from the infamous “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me”.

The purpose Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series serves is one that I’m sure has been the very one consuming every Pride & Prejudice fanatic’s mind since its publication—While our dear Eliza was pondering over Mr. Darcy’s pride, Mr. Wickham’s mistreatment, and the well-being of her beloved sisters, how was “Fitz” Darcy dawdling away his time? What could possibly trouble the days of a man worth an awe-inspiring ten thousand a year?

An Assembly Such as This invades the Austen world a minute before the ground-breaking appearance of Mr. Charles Bingley at the public ball in Hertfordshire. Mr. Darcy’s immediate thoughts are certainly not the most pleasant, focusing on the inevitable tediousness of the impending evening.

And, suddenly, we’re engulfed by the story we’ve grown to love, from the perspective of the man we love but, until now, have never understood. His mind has remained a mystery to us; the passings and goings of his thoughts, incomprehensible. We’re startled by the clarity with which we learn to view his character. The idea that we could guess what the secretive Mr. Darcy—whose actions heretofore seemed to be acted without any premeditation, due to his discreet facial expressions—would say, do, or think next abruptly becomes possible, as opposed to ridiculously hopeful.

An Assembly Such as This is merely the first installment in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. It is only a partial account of Darcy’s goings on behind the Pride & Prejudice scene. And, although anyone who even contemplates reading this book is most definitely “in the know” in regards to the plot of P&P, you bid the book adieu with an uncharacteristic jumpiness and unsettled appearance, your hands twitching impatiently to flip through the pages of the second book in the trilogy (which I finished today), Duty and Desire.

Now for the question nagging your mind, what is Pamela Aidan compared to Jane Austen? Compared to the woman known by the entire book-loving population? While I can’t deny the fact that Aidan’s voice is slightly different from Austen’s (and that, I’m sure, is partially due to the fact that she is writing from Darcy’s point of view, not Elizabeth’s), Aidan is, to phrase it lightly, right up there with Austen. Her vocabulary is similar to that of what you would expect of a woman born and raised in the 19th (or 18th, as with Austen) century. Austen’s original characters are not lost in the new braids of the story, and the additional characters never mentioned in P&P, acquaintances of Mr. Darcy’s, could most definitely have been dreamed up by Austen herself. What most impressed me, however, in Aidan’s portrayal, was the dialogue. Inevitably, a portion of the dialogue was quoted directly from P&P, in the crucial scenes from the original book, but much of it was of Aidan’s own creation, and just as witty, true to the character, and entertaining as Austen’s. I have never been so impressed in my life. I have encountered authors I adore more (Pamela Aidan is indubitably one of my favorites, though, and likely to retain that position), Aidan has achieved what I thought impossible: She has successfully become a truly Austenesque author. She has quite literally written “the rest of Pride & Prejudice”.

I whole-heartedly recommend this novel. My review of the second installment in the trilogy is forthcoming, and I’m certain my admiration will be more adamantly expressed then. Luckily, the basics have been spoken of here, and I will be free to speak more on the plotline (which is surprisingly… surprising). I’m eager to write about it now, but tomorrow will do just as well!  (EDIT: Here’s the review-)

Thanks, Pamela Aidan, for a book that’s caused my insides to do myriad things: flip excitedly, twitch and shiver apprehensively, and calmly settle contentedly.  

Madeleine

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2009 3:01 AM

    I don’t usually read Jane Austen spin-offs, but this one really does sound like fun. It might be a good choice for the Everything Austen Challenge… I’ll look for it. Thanks for the review!

  2. October 1, 2009 10:54 PM

    I think that it was the audiobook rendition that caused me such trouble with this– it doesn’t happen often, but the wrong narrator can really ruin the experience. I don’t know that I’ll track down book 2, but if I do, it will be on paper!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it– great review.

    • October 2, 2009 7:32 AM

      JoAnn: Well, as I said, neither do I! Heck, I don’t read ANY spin-offs… but this one was terrific. You don’t expect something to be a page turner when you’ve got the plot memorized… but there were surprises around every corner!

      Laura: Thanks for visiting! Haha, yes, I definitely enjoyed it!

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