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Sequel to P&P by Emma Tenant

I found this review on a novel by Emma Tennant. I've never read anything of her, so I cannot judge. I fear for the worst though.

Source: The Washington Post

After 'Pride,' the Fall
By Carolyn See,

Or Pride and Prejudice Continued
by Emma Tennant
St. Martin's. 226 pp. Paperback, $12.95

Most of the time, reviewing books is like drinking margaritas in a sunlit courtyard. Even mediocre ones often yield up unexpected, enticing treats. But every three years or so, the reviewer is apt to be enveloped by a hideous rage, best described by these words: I'm not getting paid enough to read this thing!

This thing is "Pemberley," a "sequel" to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." It was originally published in 1993, the same year as Julia Barrett's "Presumption," another sequel to "Pride and Prejudice." I don't know what you call this phenomenon exactly. In the early 1990s, did Emma Tennant have a vision of Keira Knightley in a popular movie remake of Austen's incomparable book? Or did the publisher belatedly hope to cash in on this forlorn piece of nonsense 13 years later? In any case, recycling stuff like this is a literary crime.

For those of you who never read the masterly "Pride and Prejudice," it's a novel about the middle-class Bennet family, who, in early-19th-century England and with modest means indeed, is presented with the challenge of marrying off five daughters. (Remember, women usually couldn't inherit property in those days; houses and property passed to the closest male heir.) The eldest, Jane, is saintly and beautiful; the second, Elizabeth, is spirited and ******** the third, Lydia, is a bit of a coo-coo head; the last two we don't have to worry about. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, two rich and handsome bachelors, move into the neighborhood. Darcy makes remarks to which Elizabeth takes offense. The saintly Jane ends up marrying Bingley, the ******* Elizabeth ends up with Mr. Darcy, the coo-coo head Lydia . . . I wouldn't want to give away the plot! The main thing about "Pride and Prejudice" -- and why should I even have to say it? -- is that it's an amazing, witty, gorgeously executed novel, social satire at its finest.

To presume to write its sequel, then, would require excellence in a novelist. But perhaps entitlement is the better adjective here. Emma Tennant's half-brother is a descendant of Jane Austen's brother, Edward Knight. One of her fathers-in-law was novelist Henry Green. One of her husbands, Alexander Cockburn. She's already given us sequels to (or interpretations of) "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" and "Manon Lescaut." She thrashes into her Jane Austen sequel with so much confidence that it might more accurately be called hubris.

Here's the story: Elizabeth is married now, to Mr. Darcy. They live in his great ancestral house, Pemberley. While Jane and Bingley are idyllically happy, Elizabeth and Darcy don't have an "open, shared marriage," although Darcy's eyes do "twinkle" fairly often. They don't say much of anything to each other.

They've been married a year and Elizabeth isn't pregnant yet, which means that Pemberley is in danger of falling into the hands of a distant male heir. Darcy's insolent aunt shows up and makes the obligatory remarks about the Bennet family's poor breeding. Mrs. Bennet also appears and emits a series of vulgarities far more awful than in the original, so beyond the pale that Elizabeth begins to believe Darcy's aunt was right all along -- people like the Bennets have no business consorting with the likes of the Darcys. (And yes, I'm trying to give this plot away! But I couldn't pay anybody enough to take it.)

Tennant turns Austen's marvelous satire into the creepiest kind of Harlequin romance. In very short order, Elizabeth convinces herself that Darcy has fallen in love with a Frenchwoman and has an illegitimate son by her, that Darcy is also in love with Mr. Bingley's sister, that Darcy will never forgive her (Elizabeth) for not having children and thus losing Pemberley, and that Darcy can't stand children anyway because for no apparent reason he's canceled the annual village children's Christmas party without informing her. (Of course, she could always ask him, "Mr. Darcy, why did you cancel the children's party without informing me?" but why would she want to do that?)

Austen, we might want to remember again, was as meticulous and refined as she was cutting. But here we are provided with coarse discussions of vinegar douches (to provide a male heir) and chamber pots concealed in dining room sideboards so that the gentlemen may conveniently relieve themselves once the ladies have left them to their after-dinner port. It's as though the uncouth Mrs. Bennet herself had penned this novel. You may want to pick this up from the bookstore, but make sure the bookseller pays you a good price to do so. ...

Re: Sequel to P&P by Emma Tenant

Too bad. Anyway, thanks, Renee for this review. So it seems claiming Austen to be one's close relation does not necessarily result into successful sequel writing, does it?

Re: Sequel to P&P by Emma Tenant

Austen to be one's close relation does not necessarily result into successful sequel writing, does it?

No guarantee at all, sweetie. I bet there are non-published FF authors out there without Austen's genes in their body who do a much better job.

Re: Sequel to P&P by Emma Tenant

Talking of sequels... How is that new book you have purchased through Amazon going? Can we peep a little to your insight?

Re: Sequel to P&P by Emma Tenant

That's not a sequel, but the story told from Mr. Darcy's point of view. I couldn't find the time so far to read it, but will let you know as soon as I have!