Is it intellectually acceptable to squeal over published fan fiction of classic works (although let’s be real, so much classic fiction is just fan fiction in disguise anyway)? Because I did it in my living room for an hour the other night and I’m about to do it here. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, a 2003 work by Elizabeth Aston and published by Simon & Schuster, was a wonderful soap opera of a novel.
The year is 1818 and Mr. Darcy has traveled to Constantinople for business with Elizabeth following close behind, because can you really imagine Lizzie Bennett turning down a free trip to a new exciting country with her beloved, brooding Darcy? I don’t think so. In the meantime, their five daughters, aged 16-21, are staying in London with their cousin Fitzwilliam (the one who spilled the beans about Darcy sending Bingley away!) and his wife Fanny (but fear not, the Darcys do have 2 younger sons at home preparing to safely inherit Pemberly – this isn’t a total rewrite of Pride and Prejudice). The girls have a magical first season in London, making friends and enemies and enduring more drama and scandal in just a few months than I hope to ever experience in my whole life. The novel wraps up nicely by the end, everyone ending up with their perfect match, 90% predictably with 10% unexpected squeals from the reader.
Aston does a fair job imitating Jane Austen’s tone and style, though I have to admit that it’s been years since I last read Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion and don’t tell Professor Wang but I only read the first third of Emma in ENGL312, so I may not be the best judge of the attempt. I enjoyed it at any rate – as an unabashed lover of fan fiction, I’m usually not a harsh reader of works like this, and I always appreciate a good cliche or well-written trope. The five daughters are clearly the Bennett sisters born again, though in a different order with some personality quirks traded around. There was enough new life breathed into each girl that I didn’t totally get caught up in the similarities, but they were definitely there. You’ll easily spot Darcy’s doppelganger as well, and will be happy to know that Caroline Bingley – excuse me, now Lady Warren – hasn’t changed a bit. I was able to guess most turns taken by the plot and continually put the book down to exclaim to my empty living room when my predictions were correct. I squealed for most of the last 50 pages and was literally upside down in my chair by the end from rolling in excitement.
Mr. Darcy’s Daughters was a pretty quick & easy read, perfect for a Sunday afternoon & evening after doing chores and running errands. It was nice to escape into someone else’s dramatic life after a week of my own family vacation, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a good romance.