In short, this is fan-fiction, albeit published rather than given away for free by means of the internet. As Miss Austen’s writings retain their popularity nearly two centuries after they were first penned, it is no surprise that succeeding authors wish to expand upon the scenes and characters she created, and whether Miss Austen herself would be chagrined by this usage must remain in the realm of speculation. I myself suspect she would be amused and pleased to know that her reputation has so long outlived her.
In any case, dear reader, while I have not yet finished reading the first volume (An Assembly Such As This), I write here to offer my review. My motives are two: to be more successful at keeping track of my reading this year than I was in the last; to revive the bookgrope community as a place for devoted readers to share their opinions on various books. I do hope that you will join in and share your views; it need not be an exercise in stylistic imitation such as this, which I attempt merely for my own amusement!
My initial reaction to this book was to wonder at its length. Miss Aidan takes three volumes, totaling 791 pages, to tell the same story that Miss Austen revealed in a mere 282. Perhaps the use of pen and ink rather than keyboard encouraged a less verbose style! Each succeeding volume is longer than the last, putting one in mind of that other celebrated female novelist, Mrs. Rowling.
Of course, the discerning reader finds quality more important than quantity to the enjoyment of a book (as perhaps Mrs. Rowling ought to have remembered). I find that Miss Aidan catches the tone and rhythm of Miss Austen’s style tolerably well, despite using rather more words to convey the same scene. I have noted a few small but jarring errors. On several occasions, the story refers to Miss Elizabeth Bennet as “Miss Bennet,” which title rightfully belongs to her eldest sister Jane; certainly a mistake Mr. Darcy would never make! I also find Miss Aidan’s view of Mr. Darcy’s character differing from my own. In reading the original work, I sensed his regard for Elizabeth Bennet developing far more gradually, whereas Miss Aidan seems almost to believe in “love at first sight.” Still, one’s view of any fictional character is naturally subjective, and I can scarcely object when I have no intention of penning my own Austen fan fiction. I do appreciate her treatment of Mr. Bingley’s character, and portrayal of the friendship between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. In this regard I found her insights novel, yet plausible.
In short, this work is necessarily derivative, and overly wordy, but is not without interest. Fans of Miss Austen’s work will find it an pleasant diversion, allowing them to visit familiar scenes from a slightly different perspective.