cover image Pemberley


Emma Tennant, Jane Austen. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-312-10793-2

Although it's more thoughtfully conceived than Julia Barrett's Presumption (reviewed below), Tennant's ( The Adventures of Robina ) continuation of the Austen classic only faintly rewards the reader. Unlike Barrett, Tennant makes a strong case for her endeavor. A preface demonstrates that Austen continued to think about the heroines of Pride and Prejudice long after the work's completion; from there it's easy to become interested in the dilemma proposed by Tennant: if Darcy and Elizabeth are to live happily ever after, how on earth are they to cope with their respective in-laws? The fatuous Mrs. Bennet, the supremely condescending Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the silly Lydia and her odious husband, Wickham, and the rest of the extended family convene for a Christmas at Pemberley, the Darcy estate. Fidelity to Austen is not strict--e.g., the ``real'' Jane and Elizabeth are wed on the same day, but Tennant's Elizabeth has been married about a year when Jane gives birth to her second child. Tennant does draw forth some comedy, but it dissipates quickly into soap opera. Elizabeth's high spirits are rendered as foolishness, with the heroine leaping to melodramatic assumptions about Darcy (she believes him in love with a dead mistress who has given birth to Darcy's son). The tone, moreover, is low--what would Austen have said of a Mrs. Bennet who talks of douches at the dinner table, or of a suitor who converses of chamberpots? (Nov.)