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Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Paperback – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Diana Birchall is a story analyst at Warner Bros. Studios. She has written several Jane Austen sequels; Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma is the first to be published. She has also written a biography of Winnifred Eaton, her grandmother and the first Asian-American novelist. She lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and son.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

MRS. DARCY WAS ONE OF THE HAPPIEST women in the world. She had, before reaching the age of two and twenty, married a respectable and benevolent gentleman, of the county of Derbyshire, who was possessed not only of a noble estate but a proportionately fine fortune, of ten thousand pounds a year. Miss Elizabeth Bennet (as she then was) had only a small portion herself, and even that was threatened by an unhappy event: the elopement of her youngest sister, at the age of sixteen, with a young man of exceptional worthless¬ness, whose debts might nearly have swallowed the whole of her family's resources. But by Mr. Darcy's kind interference, they were saved from disgrace. By making up the match, settling money on the undeserving youngest sister, and then making proposals for Elizabeth, he had happily brought prosperity instead of ruin upon the anxious Bennets. Elizabeth was grateful, and being assured of his own strong attachment to her, and as deeply in love as a girl of sense and spirit could well be, she most thankfully accepted his hand.

Nearly five and twenty years had passed since that halcyon year, 1812, which saw three of the five Bennet girls given in marriage: for Elizabeth's eldest and handsomest sister, Jane, married Mr. Darcy's amiable friend, Mr. Bingley, on the same day and in the same church as the young Darcys were themselves united.

At Pemberley, then, Elizabeth found her true happiness and calling in life: as chatelaine of one of the finest houses in the country, wife to a clever, well-informed man who loved her devot¬edly, admirable patroness and lady of society, who opened a most desirable house in town, in the season. In time, too, she was a mother; but years and maternity had done less to dull her beauty and vivacity than usually happens. Although she was now between forty and fifty years old, Mrs. Darcy was still a handsome woman, known for her wit and good humour; still slender, light of foot, with sparkling eyes and hair that, under her matron's lace caps, was still smooth and abundant. She was as much as ever the delight of Mr. Darcy's mind and the beloved of his heart, and if she had acquired something of an air of authority with her years at Pemberley, it was no more than was becoming and proper to her position.

Mr. Darcy was, at fifty, very much as might have been expected from a knowledge of him at eight and twenty: a noble man indeed, his tall person, magisterial bearing, and dignified manner were more impressive than ever, as befit a man of great influence in Derbyshire, sometime Member of Parliament and Justice of the Peace. Yet his lips would relax in an indulgent smile that was good to see, his eyes would gleam with enjoyment, and his face would look really handsome still, when he looked upon his wife, or upon his only daughter, who greatly resembled her.

This only daughter, Jane, was now seventeen, a girl of quick comprehension and movement: light, and airily formed, like her mother, and given to a style of impulsive wit that sometimes, it must be admitted, went too far, as she was well aware that she could beguile smiles from her stern father that he never would bestow on either of his sons.
Elizabeth was too wise to take either her husband's love or his wealth for granted, and she never forgot to exult in all her mani¬fold sources of happiness. It is impossible for human nature to be altogether without worry or pain, however, and Elizabeth's anxi¬eties were all reserved for her children.

The eldest of her sons, Fitzwilliam, the heir to Pemberley, provided sufficient concern to make any anxious mother happy. A tall, heavy young man, not uncomely, with well-cut features and dark hair, he had little of his mother's liveliness or his father's cleverness and would sit of an evening, not saying much, but turning over sporting papers. Horses were his great love and, some thought, his only interest in the world. He admired his father greatly and thought he desired to be what Mr. Darcy himself was, but he had spent two years at Oxford, with very little learning adhering to him, and he was in no danger of equalling his father's wisdom at a similar time of life. He had not yet, however, lost more money at racing than was reasonable, and his awe of his father and his own future position kept his behaviour and deportment in check and prevented him from partaking too objectionably of the racecourse.

The Darcys' second son, Henry, was more promising and quick-minded than Fitzwilliam; Elizabeth often thought it a pity that Henry were not the elder, for what would he not have done with Pemberley? She fully expected Fitzwilliam to turn it into a mere breeding-farm. With his cleverness, his balanced mind, and generous nature, Henry would have made a fine squire indeed ... but as was the way with second sons, the bulk of the estate must go to the elder, and Henry was intended for the Church. He did not repine but looked forward to ordination eagerly as a situation that would open a field of useful endeavour to him.

With her two youngest children, Elizabeth felt much more comfortable than with the unsatisfactory eldest. Their tempers were more sympathetic, their minds more developed and like her own. Her fears for them derived not from their characters, as was the way with Fitzwilliam, but from their situations: where they would settle, and with what partners, was all her anxiety. A husband for Jane, a parish for Henry, were subjects that occupied many of her thoughts.

On a fine autumn morning, the Darcy family dispersed, as usual, after breakfast. Henry had something to tell Jane and hurried her out for a walk. Mrs. Darcy lingered at the table to hear what would be the arrangements of her husband and eldest son for the day.

"There is no press of business this morning, my dear, only some farm matters, and I may ride over to Lambton on the new mare- unless you would like to try her, Fitzwilliam? It is a commission you understand."
"I should like nothing better, sir, only I am at this moment going out hunting-'tis Friday, you know."
"And if it were Tuesday itself, what then? You have been hunting every day this week."
"But you will acknowledge yourself, sir, that there is nothing else for a fellow to do in this country. Derbyshire is for hunting. And at this time of year, one must do one's best. I did not think you could object."

"To be sure not. Only there is such a thing as moderation, and your time might be better spent giving some attention to the farm and plantations; you never yet have learnt much of their manage¬ment, and it is time you did."
"Very true, sir, upon my word, very true, and I shall stay at home and take a lesson the next day you name; only this morning, don't you see, Hartley and Davis are waiting, and you would not have me disappoint them?"

Mr. Darcy gave only a slight shake of his head in response, and Fitzwilliam lumbered to his feet and, with an awkward bow to his mother, was out of the room in a surprisingly short space of time.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402213336
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402213335
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,147,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By B. Benneworth on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Diana Birchall's previous offerings in the literary world have been the delightful pieces on Mrs Elton and her highly acclaimed biography of her " Bad Grandmother " the first Asian American novelist Winifred Eaton.
Reading Mrs Darcy's Dilemma is rather like returning home to old friends after living abroad for 25 years. Although the main characters from Pride and Prejudice are here they have matured , they have children and fresh acquaintances and new troubles. We know the family members as well as if we too had attended a ball at Pemberley.
Mrs Darcy though some 25 years older and a mother of three is as delightful and caring as ever she was, Mr Darcy has lost none of his charm and magnetism. The greedy sensuous Lydia has become older but sadly no wiser, indeed she appears to be adopting all of her mothers bad traits whilst sadly ignoring her finer points.
One feels that the crux in any Pride and Prejudice sequel is the arrival of Mr Collins on the scene . A character who can so easily be overdone and descend into parody , here he is his truly ghastly oleaginous self once more .
We are introduced to the Darcy children, Fitzwilliam the oldest son and a keen follower of the turf. Henry, serious minded , yet fun loving and destined for the clergy , and finally the Darcy's daughter Jane. Beautiful, intelligent and charming with all of the finest character attributes of her mother.
Lydia's daughters Bettina and Chloe soon enter in to the household and events begin to unfold.
There are no blurred or ragged characters in the book , all are drawn as sharply as the originals indeed it is as if Miss Austen herself has returned to take up her story.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By janeaustenite on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first read P&P more than 40 years ago, and I've read it more than 40 times since. Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma is the first sequel I couldn't put down; it's Jane Austen come to life again. Birchall speaks the language without being silly about it. The Darcys have a mature marriage, as one would have expected; Kitty is as envious and querulous as can be; Lydia as clueless and conniving as ever she was; Mary as superficially well-read as she started out to be. Readers of Birchall's In Defense of Mrs. Elton will not be surprised to find that Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma is great fun.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte in CA on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All Jane Austen lovers yearn for the discovery of a lost Jane Austen manuscript. This is the next best thing! Ms. Birchall seems to channel Jane Austen in this witty, entertaining and exceedingly clever P&P sequel. Not since Tom Stoppard wrote "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" has an author been so masterful at speaking the very prose of another beloved author. "Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma" jumps us (the readers) ahead a quarter of a century from the end of P&P. We have wonderfully satisfying glimpses of Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy's marriage; equally fun, we meet the offspring of the Bennett girls. Also, the non-Bennett P&P characters are each reintroduced in this novel, sprinkled throughout like old friends just back in touch. Best of all, the plot of this novel, while true to the pace and tenor of Austen's plots, is original and delightful. I reread P&P about once a year. From now on, my readings will be immediately followed with this gem. Bravo Ms. Birchall! Please, please write more.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By The Inveterate Reader on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The search for a great sequel is, in truth, a rather fruitless one. When has "part II" ever stood up to the original, especially when the original is Jane Austen? Nevertheless, I took comfort on a grey afternoon reuniting with Elizabeth and Darcy and enjoyed meeting their three children, Fitzwilliam, Henry, and Jane. Diana Birchall's quickly moving story will neither excite awe nor a re-read, but she does a fine job of bringing all the social drama of Longbourn, Pemberley, and Rosings back to our lives. She even manages to weave in a bit of Mansfield Park into her plot line.

All in all, an enjoyable, quick read for an Austen fanatic.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Paula Berman on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
What of it? Anyone who expects an Austen sequel to equal the original is probably a bit delusional. And no modern author is likely to be able to write in Austen's voice with no later influences. The trick to that is to exclude the ones that would spoil the work.

And Birchall manages that. The mores are those of their time, not ours (e.g. romance among close cousins, as seen in Austen but also half a century later in Alcott). The tone is close enough to the original not to jar the attentive reader out of the story, a rarity among modern sequels. The plot has the lightness of Heyer and the "bad woman who gets away with it", as aptly described by another reviewer, may owe a bit to Thackeray or Trollope. This is not Austen, and it doesn't pretend to be; it's good Austenite fun nonetheless, and worth the time to read.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By L. Decker on November 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While the book depicted the characters from Pride & Prejudice accurately and threaded them through the plot with the gratification of their characters reacting somewhat true to form, I found no highs or lows worth being in a dilemma over. People got hurt, people got married, folks visited and it was all presented rather matter-of-factly. I didn't hate it but its not a "I'm going to read that again someday book, either." To a great degree, I think its oversold, both in price and content.
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