Sourcebooks has recently released the second novel in The Pemberley Chronicles series entitled The Women of Pemberley by author Rebecca Ann Collins. This is the first North American printing of this novel which had been previously released in Australia in 1998, and is part of a ten book sequel series of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice.
The Women of Pemberley continues the story of Pride and Prejudice’s children of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jane and Charles Bingley and other familiar characters. The narrative is told in five chapters, each focused on five young women; Emma, Emily, Cassandra, Isabella and Josie and progresses through several years of their lives. Many of the same themes favored by Jane Austen such as courtship and marriage are present, but Ms. Collins’ pen is much broader, taking the characters and plots outside the realm of “three or four families in a country village” and introduces social, political and historical context to the plot. With The Women of Pemberley, we have entered the Victorian era, and witness the great change and industrial progress in England through the lives of her characters.
Recently, Austenprose received correspondence from author Rebecca Ann Collins in response to our post in April regarding her comments on Austen sequels in the book Jane Austen: Antipodean Views. She was both amused and intrigued by our comments and the strong reaction by readers, and wanted to elaborate and clarify her views further.
In the spirit of fair game, and the fact that most true Janeites want their share of the conversation, we are including her comments for the edification and enjoyment of our readers.
Rebecca Ann Collins writes –
Having read your exceedingly diverting comments and the variety of opinions of your correspondents on the subject of Jane Austen sequels- I was wondering if you will permit me to contribute to the conversation.
I would like to make a few points.
- Regarding the writing of “sequels“- I find myself in complete agreement with you about the importance of “honesty and loyalty to Jane Austen”. While there is a commitment to free speech, there is also a question of integrity. To stick the names of Miss Austen’s characters on persons whose conduct is nothing like that of the original characters is specious and ultimately dishonest and cannot satisfy the true Austen reader. A sequel is surely not a sequel if the characters in it have changed beyond recognition in the process. I cannot suppress a suspicion that many of these “writers” have not read the original novels of Jane Austen but have simply looked at the film versions of the books and so missed the original author’s intentions.
- In defence of decorum, I have to confess that I find many so-called sequels- replete with pages of sexually explicit scenes -quite unbelievable. Not because 19th century men and women were less passionate or amorous than their 21st century counterparts- but that in order to be credible, characters in a novel must act, write and conduct themselves in the context in which they live. Miss Austen’s characters – (except for bounders and scoundrels like Wickham and Willoughby and silly women like Lydia Bennet and Maria Bertram) are portrayed as having personal dignity and decorum. Passion was certainly not proscribed – but it was always personal and private. Public exhibitions of amorous behaviour – was deeply frowned upon by Jane Austen and the circle in which she lived. Readers familiar with Austen’s novels will recall – even the most passionate lovers do not kiss in public and the detail of their love making is left to the romantic imagination of the readers. Love and marriage was much more than a series of sexy romps; to be realistic – in an era without contraception, it usually meant lots of children and hard work and often ill health. That Elizabeth and Darcy or Jane and Bingley are not described kissing and cuddling or discussing their private parts – has never lead me to think that they did not love each other deeply – in fact the author suggests it is quite the reverse.
- In the Pemberley Series, which moves from 1815 through to 1865 – there is a more relaxed attitude to the expression of feelings and emotions between characters and while there are many gentle love scenes, detailed descriptions of sexual encounters would be absurdly inappropriate. There are no 19th century literary examples from Austen to George Elliott and Dickens to Galsworthy containing scenes of explicit sexual intercourse. So what is the need to inflict them upon Jane Austen’s characters? One interesting explanation is that these works reflect the sequel writers’ views of the activities of the actors – Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the late 20th century context – rather than Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy! This sounds quite plausible.
- No doubt writers of sequels have a range of differing motives. The Pemberley novels are my modest personal tribute to one of our greatest writers – a woman, who under quite difficult conditions, created some of the most enduring and beloved characters in English fiction and told their stories with wit and humour. The Pemberley novels try to reflect something of that leisurely, charming era; they are not meant to titillate 21st century readers looking for quick sex and violence in period costume. There’s plenty of that sort of material around in bookshops and video stores everywhere.
Thank you Laurel Ann, for this opportunity to participate in your interesting and entertaining conversation and for your wonderful work in maintaining an interest in a much loved writer.
Rebecca Ann Collins