Story Title: Tapestry of Lives
Author Name: Jean M.
Story Url: Story Link
Content Rating: Parental Guidance
Status: WIP (Currently lacking only an epilogue as of Feb. 2011)
Story Summary: After Elizabeth returns from Kent, Mr. Bennet reads a certain letter and this knowledge changes the course of events. Be forewarned: the right couples come together and the villains are punished, but I adore imagining why Austen’s characters did what they did, so the action gets broken up with lots of flashbacks. The Bard said it best: “What’s past is prologue.””
As a glance at the story tags on the sidebar (at right) will indicate, it’s very unusual for me to recommend stories that are still works-in-progress. However, as this fic lacks only an epilogue to complete it (as per the author’s post of 2 Feb. 2011), and as the major plot points have all been addressed, I feel safe in recommending this story as is. And, frankly, I love it too much to resist recommending it immediately.
The author’s summary gives little hint to how captivating this imaginative story is. It isn’t merely a rehash of canon with that one minor, post-Hunsford change acting as a pebble in the pond, altering things slightly as its effects are felt. Instead, this is a very intriguing look at how different things would be if that one key event shed some light on many other events, past, present and future. In other words, because of Mr. Bennet’s enlightenment, not only does Elizabeth have her father’s keen insight to aid her in evaluating Mr. Darcy’s letter, there are also important things altered in the days to come because of their shared knowledge, and we are made aware of some very significant events in the past which impact our favorite couple and their families.
Among my favorite elements in this story is the way that the Lydia/Wickham scenario is handled by the author. Almost every P&P-based fic I’ve read has addressed this situation or some variation of it. This author comes up with a way of addressing it that is very different from any I’ve seen and, as a result, the relationship between Elizabeth and Lydia is extremely different, too. I really loved it! Another alteration in this fic was the backstory for the de Bourgh family. Again, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Yet it all made so much sense that on occasion I found myself questioning what was canon and what was a product of this author’s imaginative, well-ordered, and extremely logical story.
Another point I think is important to mention: Many times when I read epic-length stories, I find myself wishing the story had an editor to prompt the author to cut the babbling short, drop the flowery prose and unnecessary anecdotes, and get to the point of the story (Tom Clancy excites that wish every time!) Some authors also have a hard time balancing their need to provide backstory and greater understanding of what their characters are thinking and why they act the way they do, with the need to keep the story snappy and moving forward at a steady pace. This is most certainly not a problem here. In spite of its length, the story is paced extremely well and I was never bored, nor aggravated by whiny, morose, or long-winded inner monologues. The introspective portions of the story are brief enough to prevent things from dragging, but detailed enough to allow for far greater understanding of the characters and their reactions to events, both in canon and in this fic.
During a recent re-read it occurred to me that there is a distant similarity between Jean M.’s narrative style and that of L.M. Montgomery. Fans of Montgomery will recall how her novels have long-spanning plots (Anne is adopted, meets Gilbert, hates Gilbert, becomes friends with Gilbert, falls in love with Gilbert, etc.) which are spaced out with shorter stories peppered throughout the series (Miss Lavender’s wedding, Patty’s Place, Rolling Reliable). “Tapestry of Lives” is similar in that there is a primary plot which encompasses the entire epic story, with several shorter stories throughout it. A big difference, though, is that all these shorter stories weave in and out of the main plot, connecting together exactly like a tapestry.
Finally, please note that the “Violence or Abuse-Sexual” and Non-con tags do not refer to anything disturbing involving the protagonists. However, the abusive behavior of some original characters is detailed enough that it could be bothersome to some. And while this isn’t a critique, please also be aware that the author has hinted that it may be several months before she has time to post the epilogue. Even if she never does so, though, this story stands on its own here and will not leave you frustrated regardless of what else is or is not posted in the future.
My only critique: There were a few typos and skipped words, but given the length of the fic (I’d estimate it to currently be over 180,000 words) and the rarity of such mistakes, that is a very minor quibble.