Mrs. Wickham’s daughter causes trouble in ‘Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma’

I’ve decided to write another blog post since it’s a rainy day, and I’ve honestly got nothing better to do (parents are watching terribly bad valentine’s day movie). Today I’ll be reviewing Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Diana Birchall (2004).

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Generally, I quite liked this novel. Unlike many other Pride & Prejudice sequels, the story does not begin right after Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, but 25 years into their marriage, which I think is quite unique. It tells the story of Mrs. Darcy in her 40s and the trouble she has keeping her children, as well as her sister Lydia Wickham’s children in check. Elizabeth Darcy’s own children are Fitzwilliam, her eldest child, whose character description in the beginning of the book is more or less limited to his liking of horse racing and drinking, Henry, the second son, who is the more sensible of the two and is planning to become a clergyman, and Jane, her only daughter and youngest child. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley have one son, who is extremely spoilt and whose behavior has much to ask for. Kitty married a clergyman, Mr. Clarke, but spends most of her time at the Darcy’s household. She has grown quite bitter.  Mrs. Wickham has eight children, of which she has sent two to stay at the Darcy’s for a while: Bettina and Chloe. Bettina is the elder one of the two, and is basically a Lydia v2.0: arrogant, conceited, and incredibly rude, while Chloe is a modest, shy, but pleasant young woman who is immediately liked by the Darcy family. As you will probably expect, Bettina’s presence at Pemberley leads to a lot of trouble!

Again, like I remarked in my previous review (here), there is much about this plot that is incredibly predictable: Lydia’s daughter turns out to be very similar to her and gets into the same kind of trouble. However, the other new characters are not cliché per se. I read an interesting review on http://www.pemberley.com, where Linda Waldemar argued that many of the characters show similarities to characters from other novels by Jane Austen than Pride & Prejudice. I think she makes a good point, which makes this novel particularly interesting for Austen addicts.

The way in which this novel was written, is very reminiscent of Austen’s writing style, while it still reads like a contemporary novel. Because of this, it is an easy read for a Sunday afternoon, similar to Presumption by Julia Barrett. What is unlike Austen’s writing style, however, is that Birchall does include references to historical events, such as the fact that Victoria becomes Queen. Also, she clearly illustrates the difference between the time in which her novel takes place versus the time in which Pride & Prejudice is set by emphasizing that society is changing, with London being much more modern than the rest of the country. Specifically, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy have to raise their children in a country where societal rules become less strict and a younger generation starts rebelling against them. This historical aspect makes the novel less Austenesque, but more pleasant to read as a contemporary sequel, in my opinion.

I’m giving this a 7 out of 10, so definitely a nice read, but, again, nothing spectacular. 😉 Next time, I’ll be reviewing the famous 1995 BBC series, which I LOVE, so you can expect a crazy rant about how good it is next time.

Also, Happy belated Single’s Awareness Day! ♥

1. Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen (1813)
2. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston (2003)
3. Darcy’s Story, by Janet Aylmer (1996)
4. Mr Darcy’s Diary, by Amanda Grange (2006)
5. Pride and Prejudice BBC/PBS miniseries (1980)
6. Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett (1995)
7. Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, by Diana Birchall (2004)
8. Pride and Prejudice A&E/BBC miniseries (1995)
9. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004)
10. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, by Abigail Reynolds (2010)
11. Pride & Prejudice Universal Studios film (2005)
12. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo (2010)

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