I have previously written about book sequels, prequels, and coquels, and there is another genre called alternative history, variation, or “what-if.” All these genres are related by their interest in meeting the demand of a fan base that can’t get enough of a cast of characters.
Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds is a form of what-if, alternative history, although technically it is alternative fiction because it is based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. The what-if to Impulse and Initiative is:
- What if… Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind?
Readers of Pride & Prejudice will recall that, after Elizabeth rejected Darcy’s proposal, he retreated to Pemberley for several months in misery until she happened to accidentally encounter him while touring the country with her aunt and uncle. In Reynold’s telling of the tale, Darcy’s cousin learns of his misery and the cousin pushes Darcy to stop pitying himself and instead to try to win Elizabeth back.
Thus, the major difference between these two scenarios – i.e., the “true” fiction and the alternate fiction – is that Darcy must try to win Elizabeth affections without the benefit of having already rescued the Bennet family from the dastardly Mr. Wickham. The major stylistic difference between the two books is that Reynolds focuses on both Elizabeth and Darcy and is explicit in describing the thoughts and actions of two sensual lovers.
Although the sensual activity is probably out of character for Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy, it certainly isn’t jarring to 21st-century readers. And in other respects, the large cast of characters remain true to Jane Austen’s original masterpiece.
The writing is good, but not as good as in Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James or in the Darcy trilogy by Pamela Aidan. And the storyline is most satisfying.
Time well spent.