An Assembly Such as This
About the Book
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows — as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.
Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen’s original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy’s past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.
The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series is a novel in three parts, and An Assembly Such as This covers the events from Pride and Prejudice from Darcy and Elizabeth's meeting at the general assembly to Darcy and Bingley's escape to London. Despite several flaws, I found this first book entertaining and faithful to Austen's original in content and spirit.
After his infamous snub, Darcy finds himself captivated by Elizabeth's wit, charm, and - not surprisingly - beauty. What's interesting is that part of that captivation is in his own mind. He's falling in love with some ideal of Elizabeth that he's built up based on his limited interaction with her. It'll be interesting to see how that develops in the later books into a more mature love, based on the reality of Elizabeth rather than the fantasy.
The best part of the book is the character interaction, both with old favorites like Bingley and Caroline, and new additions like Darcy's Shakespeare-quoting valet and Scarlet-Pimpernel-esque college friend. I frequently laughed out loud at the zingers and verbal fencing, the clothing plots of the valet, and the more ridiculous conversations. But I wish Aidan hadn't elected to skip some of the original dialogue in favor of summary, especially when it's Darcy/Elizabeth dialogue!
The writing can be a bit clunky as Aidan strives to emulate Austen. And while well-researched, sometimes it feels like Aidan's cramming in a Regency lesson rather than letting her research remain in the background. The non-closure ending is unsatisfactory, since it's leading into the next book, and slightly boring now that Darcy's left Hertfordshire (and therefore Elizabeth!) behind.
Overall, I thought this was a good interpretation of Darcy's side of the story, with more depth of character than we get in the original, and more verbal fencing between him and Elizabeth - a good recipe for a good spin-off.