Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Way of the World by Elizabeth Aston

It is about 20 years after the events in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The Darcy's are off to Constantinople, leaving their five daughters with Fitzwilliam and his wife Fanny for a season in London. The girls must carefully pick their way through high society in the hope of finding eligible matches, enduring being jilted, hoodwinked, falling in love with the wrong men and scandalous gossip about their conduct. Will the shades of Pemberly be polluted or will the girl's manage to keep their reputations?

I must admit I picked this book up because I adore Pride and Prejudice. I have read Carrie A Bebris' Mr and Mrs Darcy series and enjoyed them as light reading. Although I found 'The Way of the World' readable I have to admit I probably won't be recommending it unlike the Mr and Mrs Darcy series. The book started slowly and when it finally got going it wasn't too long before it felt a bit too unlike Austen in terms of plot. Aston does manage to incorporate the various characters from Pride and Prejudice but topics like sodomy and pregnancy out of wedlock aren't really discussed openly in Austen's work. The five daughters of Darcy have very few redeeming qualities between them. The most likeable character is Althea, but perhaps this is because she is a fairly minor character with only a few major scenes so you haven't got the chance to dislike her. Letty is so prim and proper and highly strung that you feel she is a cross between Mrs Bennett and the early impression we get of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Camilla is meant to be the Elizabeth like character but I just didn't feel she was. Belle and Georgina are clearly the Kitty and Lydia of this book but it's almost as if Aston is trying to out-do Austen in the scandal stakes. Theres one point where one of the twins is found in a state of undress with an admirer.

The book did make me want to keep reading, just out of fascination to see what would happen to everyone. The middle bit of the book was the most gripping, whilst the last section of the book seemed very out of character with Austen's world. It felt like Aston was trying to update Austen and make it a bit more exciting for modern tastes. It's not what I like. I like Austen because I find her humorous and I don't find the plots threatening. I find Austen gentle, but not Aston. I also found the constant references to the beauty of unmarried women in the book (or their lack of it) irritating. I only needed to be told how pretty cousin Sophie was once, and not have her constantly compared to the other young ladies.

I would recommend this to people who although enjoyed Austen's works felt it needed a bit of spice and updating.

*2 stars*

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