This book marks my 100th read in 2016! Yay! Once I started reading this, I just couldn’t stop. I finished this book at 5 am, feeling fuzzy, lighthearted, and incredibly satisfied.
In The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Bennet passes on when Elizabeth was only fifteen. In preparation for his imminent death, Mr. Bennet comes into agreement with his good friend Mr. Darcy of Derbyshire to take Elizabeth under his care. This information leaves Elizabeth confused and a little resentful, as her mother and three sisters are to remain in a cottage in Meryton, and Jane is to live with the Gardiners. She’s always believed her father considered her his favorite daughter; why did he choose to have her taken so far away with people so wholly unconnected to her?
On the day the Darcy’s are to take Elizabeth, she runs away wearing outdated and baggy men’s clothes and four pounds to her name. Mr. Darcy’s son, Fitzwilliam, runs after Elizabeth, and this leads to a wild goose chase. After a few days, the young Mr. Darcy saves Elizabeth from danger, brings her to his room to giver her a few moments to regain her composure and to make herself more presentable. Prior to this, the young Mr. Darcy bumps into an acquaintance, and asks for her help to provide Elizabeth with female clothing.
As we know, in the Regency era, propriety precedes everything. People must observe the most proper decorum. Two unmarried people of the opposite sex must not be left alone to their own devices to avoid scandal and compromise. Unfortunately for Elizabeth and Darcy, a resentful former flame discovers them and believes it her duty to spread the scandal all over town. Long story short, Elizabeth and Darcy must marry to avoid disgrace.
The story is divided into five parts–Elizabeth’s fifteenth year, sixteenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twenty first. We are shown how Elizabeth changes from the tomboy, impertinent and ‘disobedient little hellion’ to the refined, beautiful Mistress of Pemberley.
Elizabeth at fifteen was very much still a child. She had little regard for consequences, as seen when she ran away from home. When Mr. Darcy proposed to her, she stamped and whined, and there were times when I wanted to drag her by the ear and give her a talking to. Darcy wasn’t any better. He was too serious for his age, and looked slightly ridiculous with the thin mustache, long hair, and the gaudy cravats. It was very entertaining to imagine him as such.
Their marriage was indeed a bumpy one. Elizabeth would never have thought that upon marrying the same man she ran away from, the very same man would run away from her. Within the first year of marriage, Darcy goes to Scotland to tend to their estate. He again leaves for the continent when the Fitzwilliams’ finances were invested under a questionable business. Thankfully, Elizabeth had Colonel Fitzwilliam, Lady Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, and Georgiana’s governess, Miss Temple.
Despite the company of the Fitzwilliams and Georgiana, my heart still ached for Elizabeth. She lost her father at such a young age, married a man who holds no tender feelings for her a few months later, and lost another father figure a while later. She was then thrust into the role of mistress without so much as a by your leave, and her husband was absent. She had no choice but to grow up.
By the time Darcy finally comes back, Elizabeth is no longer the impertinent fifteen year old he remembered her to be. She’s beautiful, refined, accomplished, and is very much the Mistress of Pemberley. The staff respects her, and he could see how amazing she is at her role. It leaves him awed and a little confused.
I love how this story was weaved. It was different from Pride and Prejudice, but the same elements were still there. There were a few nods to Austen’s other works, too.
Wickham was a rake of the highest order. Caroline was more persistent than ever. She knew Darcy was married yet she still tried to woo him. Charles was the usual affable and kind man.
The ending was satisfying and relieving. After everything Elizabeth’s been through, she deserves the best of endings.
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