Did you ever wonder about Georgiana Darcy, cooped up in her big mansion waiting for a few letters from her big brother? Or how about a mushroom trip at the dinner table, with only the snide Caroline Bingley to keep any clear-headed company? Ever wonder what that would be like? What about Kitty Bennet? Whatever happened to her?
Yes, if you’ve ever wondered about these things, then The Road to Pemberley is for you. Stemming from our beloved Pride and Prejudice, this anthology of twelve short-stories rolls nearly every character, plot device, setting, and love interest into a big wad, smashing and smooshing, mixing and fixing, wringing out story after story of creative fan fiction where every sentence is dripping with possibility. And really, many of them ooze with NEW possibility! Things you’ve never thought of before! Things more exciting than Darcy and Elizabeth with a gaggle of children and millions of dollars to play with!
Edited by The Darcys and the Bingleys series author Marsh Altman, she also supplies the introduction and her own short-story “Pride and Prejudice Abridged.” Regina Jeffers is another familiar Austen sequel writer and offers up “The Pemberley Ball.” The remaining ten authors are debuting fan fiction writers: “But He Turned Out Very Wild” by Sarah A. Hoyt, “A Long, Strange Trip” by Ellen Gelerman, “An Ink-Stained Year” by Valerie T. Jackson, “The Potential of Kitty Bennet” by Jessica Koschnitzky, “A Good Vintage Whine” by Tess Quinn, “Georgiana’s Voice” by J.H. Thompson, “Secrets in the Shade” by Bill Friesema, “A View from the Valet” by Nacie Mackey, “Beneath the Greenwood Trees” by Marilou Martineau and “Father of the Bride” by Lewish Whelchel.
These short-story writers are to be commended for a number of reasons, not the least of which being a complete and utter destruction of my expectations in terms of plain ‘ol creativity. There are few accounts of a perfect, problem-less life between the Darcy pair, and instead many more anecdotes from angles I never expected: a gander at Darcy as a rambunctious child (a story that also features actual, properly-formatted citations and footnotes….thank you!), a Downton Abbey-esque retelling of Darcy’s life through the eyes of his valet, a mysterious tale of extortion from a rare male Austen fanfic writer, and a what-if scenario featuring Darcy, Bingley, a locked cellar, and many bottles of port. What else could an Austen worshipper ask for?
These stories all stand out in a sea of Jane Austen materials, and to see them bound together in one volume will enamor every Austen lover out there. Characters will come alive again, if only briefly, and sing their tale with new energy and enthusiasm that will take your beloved copy of Pride and Prejudice virtually apart, throw the pages in the air, then stitch them back together in a manner you never thought possible. Wickham’s story especially will grip you, and you’ll find yourself wondering if Ms. Austen didn’t deliberately leave out some important details…ahem.
Though we have Marsha Altman to thank for collecting the words of these budding authors, her own additions are not her best efforts. The introduction is a confusing foray into the beginnings of Austen fanfic with a decidedly sarcastic tone, and the short prefaces that begin each story serve more as a platform for Altman’s opinion and less as a space to share excitement for the new author. Those add-ons, compiled with references to her own works that dot the book, cloud the pages of The Road to Pemberley in a disappointing way. Having been overjoyed at her Ballad of Gregoire Darcy, I was taken aback by her methods here!
Nevertheless, The Road to Pemberley might be just what you’re looking for: short, engaging stories for these hot, summer days. Though you might be wearing a bathing suit on the outside, The Road to Pemberley will make you feel like you’re wearing a Regency dress on the inside…no doubt sweating your booty off. But don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.
4 out of 5 Stars
The Road to Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories, edited by Marsha Altman
Ulysses Press (2011)
Trade paperback (400) pages
Cover image courtesy of Ulysses Press © 2011; text Shelley DeWees © 2011, Austenprose.com