The third book in the Pemberley Chronicles series, Netherfield Park Revisted by Rebecca Ann Collins has just been released by Soucebooks this month. In this continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the story starts in 1859, Queen Victoria has reigned for twenty-two years, England has undergone an industrial revolution and is one of the most powerful and influential nations to rule the sea and colonize the globe. Once again we are introduced to many of the characters central in the novel Pride and Prejudice, the Darcy’s and Bingley’s and their children. Handsome Jonathan Bingley, son of Charles and Jane Bingley, takes center stage, returning to Netherfield Park whose traditions and history runs strong in his family. In this ongoing historical saga, Ms. Collins continues to delve into themes that Jane Austen never approached in her secluded early 19th-century world of three or four families in a country village, but these expansions of plot and characters seem only natural as they parallel the progress of England’s social, economical and industrial growth.
Ms. Rebecca Ann Collins joins us today to share her thought on her inspiration for Netherfield Park Revisited, her affinity to Jonathan Bingley and her favorite book in the ten novel series.
When, on page one of Pride and Prejudice – Mrs Bennet announces, “My dear Mr Bennet, have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”, we are in no doubt that the story has begun, for it is with her machinations to catch the amiable and eligible tenant – Mr Bingley for her loveliest daughter Jane, that Mrs Bennet is obsessed from that point on.
It affects quite dramatically the lives of the Bennet family at Longbourn and especially those of Jane and her sister Elizabeth. In the end, after an agonising period of indecision on his part, Jane does marry her beloved Bingley and Elizabeth – after even more agony, compounded by both pride and prejudice – is claimed by his enigmatic friend Mr Darcy. At the end of the novel – we are assured that the two couples lived happily ever after; but of course they have moved – far from small town Hertfordshire society – Lizzie to Pemberley and the Bingley’s to a “a neighbouring county”.
Having followed their progress through the first years of their married lives in the dynamic world of 19th-century England, and observed their children growing up, I was intrigued by the prospect of a return to Netherfield Park by another, younger Mr Bingley – Jonathan the handsome, likeable son of Jane and Charles. Of course, Jonathan is already married to young Amelia-Jane Collins – as a result of a somewhat hasty romance, which even if he hasn’t yet come to regret, appears likely to cause him some grief in the future – which is what opened up the possibility of a return to Netherfield Park for Jonathan and his family, with consequences for most if not all of them.
Most authors have their favourite characters – Miss Austen’s was Elizabeth Bennet and mine is Cassy Darcy. But Jonathan Bingley always hung around me, prompting me to do more – like a good actor in a minor role, pleading for more lines, or something more exciting to do. So even before The Women of Pemberley was finished, I had started drafting Netherfield Park Revisited, to give Jonathan his run and his very own niche in the Pemberley story.
Having decided that Amelia – Jane was going to be a problem – how then was Jonathan to be unshackled? The story developed its own momentum, almost from page one and as I do not wish to spoil it for future readers – I shall reveal no more of the plot except to say, it took a bit of careful working out. But, once the cast of characters is set, in an authentic environment, where the basic standards of behaviour (and misbehaviour) are well known and they are allowed to act only according to their own disposition, the stories evolve almost organically, without the need for manipulation or contrivance.
Just occasionally, one needs to give the characters a little push, with an unexpected arrival or an accident – to get them moving in a new direction, but that is really all. A good story with a few interesting characters tells itself; which is what happened with Jonathan Bingley and Netherfield Park Revisited. It has turned into one of my favourite episodes in the series.
September 28, 2008