I read Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott to review for my September entry in the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge from austenprose.com. I was intrigued to see if the author could keep my attention as she told the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s younger sister in journal form. Georgiana was not a favorite character of mine, at least not enough to think of in terms of reading an entire book based on her writings. I also confess I never had the stamina nor commitment to write in a diary much more than a few weeks when I was younger, so I hoped I would fare better at reading one.
It is now the spring of 1814. Napoleon has just been defeated (at least for a little while). Lizzy and Darcy are married and settled in Derbyshire. The setting is Pemberley and a house party of sorts is taking place, the purpose of which is to find a husband for Georgiana. Several familiar characters are in attendance, along with a few new gents to play suitor. Georgiana is uninterested the assembled gentlemen and instead pines secretly for a surprising gentleman – her cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam. He is expected back from the continent any day, and Georgiana is is both hoping for and dreading his presence, wanting to see him well and whole, yet fearing her love will continue to go unrequited. After his arrival, the story navigates the ups and downs of Georgiana’s emotions, the schemes of Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley, and the amorous attentions of a few extraneous gentlemen. And Lizzy might be pregnant! Squee!
Ms. Elliott started off writing in the manner we would expect from Georgiana – timid, shy, quiet. As Georgiana is the narrator, we know her mind throughout, and we soon see changes emerge in her personality as she begins to know her own heart, speak her own mind, and take more control of her future. One would expect that with Elizabeth Bennet for a sister-in-law, it would be hard not to pick up some of her confidence and spirited banter. It did seem rather quick for Georgiana to become more assertive, especially to her Aunt de Bourgh, but it is sink or swim when contending with that woman.
It was hard for me not to think that in the spring of her 18th year, Georgiana Darcy would more likely have been in London for her Season, navigating the marriageable men in that setting, rather than a house party in the country. Those generally did not occur until the end of summer, when London became too unbearably hot and smelly. As insufferable as Darcy felt his Aunt de Bourgh to be, I was surprised to see her the veritable hostess in charge of serving up suitors for Georgiana. It seems the shades of Pemberley were not too polluted for a visit after all. And I have always felt sorry for poor Anne de Bourgh, so I was pleased to see her treated well by her extended family (although not her mother). Again, I was surprised that it was Georgiana that saw the real Anne and strove to aid her climb from under her mother’s thumb. It seemed a little mature for the sheltered and shy Georgiana. I once again chalked this up to having Lizzy for a sister now.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Georgiana and Col. Fitzwilliam being matched together, however. On the surface, it sounds romantic and star-crossed, yet when I think deeper on it I cannot get past the fact that he is her guardian and her first cousin. He has been her guardian since she was a child, and has been a figure of authority to her all that time; I would hope his feelings for her were proprietary and parental as they should be for a child in his care. It is understandable for a young girl to be infatuated with an older gentleman, but not at all for the reverse. The reverse is creepy and criminal, I don’t care what century you call your own. And I know that cousins married, but it was not a common occurrence, with less than 10% of the population doing such. Still, Jane Austen wrote of the fondest wish of “his mother and hers” to be the marriage of Darcy and Anne, so she might have conceived a connected future for Col. Fitzwilliam and Georgiana. It just felt weird, yet I resolved to dismiss my icky-feelings over the backstory and kinship of Georgiana and the Colonel as I read, and just decided to enjoy their budding romance. Now that I think about it again, though . . . .
Georgiana Darcy’s Diary is definitely not Austen-esque in its writing style, and the prevalence of so many women characters taking decidedly modern actions is far-fetched, but it works as fan fiction. This is Georgiana’s story, so don’t be surprised that Lizzy and Darcy are not the primary characters. In point of fact, in several entries Georgiana writes how she does not want to pry into their marriage (she does write how much she cares for Lizzy and that her brother is better for having married her). This is Georgiana’s story of growing up, pursuing love, and coming into her own.
Unfortunately, I did not realize until the end that this might be a two-part diary, and now I feel I must read Pemberley to Waterloo. I’m one of those readers that just has to know how the story ends. I’m off to amazon.com.