These Three Remain
Aidan’s trilogy Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman recounts the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the male hero. The first two volumes (see HNR 37, Aug 2006, p18) examine Darcy’s earlier experiences; the conclusion, his encounters with Elizabeth Bennet at Rosings, Pemberley, and finally back in Hertfordshire.
Aidan focuses upon Darcy’s state of mind: the conflict between his sense of duty to family and his powerful feelings for Elizabeth that are responsible for his offensive marriage proposal at Rosings; his anger and despair after her rejection; his struggle to reform himself, to reject pride and instead show more consideration for others. This requires him to treat with greater understanding and forbearance not only those he cares for, like Bingley and his own sister Georgiana, but also his old enemy Wickham.
While in London, Darcy blunders into a gathering of Irish rebels plotting against the government, but most of the expanded material is devoted to his interaction with friends, family, and servants. He makes time, for example, to get to know his sad little cousin Anne and to recognize that he has neglected her shamefully.
The problem for Aidan, as for all authors who use borrowed characters, is that her novel invites comparison with its predecessor. Aidan writes a historical novel that explains customs and cultural background of the age; Austen assumes her readers’ knowledge of a contemporary world they shared. As a result, the later novel is not as tightly structured and focused as the earlier one. Moreover, since Darcy lacks Elizabeth’s lively sense of humor, his tale is more ponderous, even though, paradoxically, it contains more action. Aidan’s enjoyable novel nevertheless heightens our appreciation of Jane Austen’s wonderful achievement.