Story: Excessively Attentive
Author: Jessica S.
Story URL: Story Link
Status: WIP (Work-In-Progress; Last updated February 2011, but does not end on a cliffhanger. See note below under “My Only Critique.”)
Word count: Novel-length
Summary: Elizabeth’s Hunsford visit, and subsequently her life, takes a sharp left turn when Lady Catherine recognizes her.
This is another fanfic in that same trope I enjoy, in which Elizabeth is actually related to Mr. Darcy’s family. And while, as I’ve said before, this entire sub-genre can probably be considered crack!fic, I like well-written crack!fic, and this is a prime example of how it can be written beautifully and with great depth. I can’t count the number of times I’ve returned to this story to read it in full, or simply skip to some of my favorite moments.
I enjoyed Lady Catherine in this story because, although her treatment of Elizabeth is understandably much different than in canon, there is a logical explanation for that difference, and her character itself is unchanged She’s still domineering and condescending and she certainly doesn’t seem to mind Mr. Collins’ sycophantic behavior. I imagine it must have been difficult to write Lady Catherine from such a different perspective, portraying her as her own family would perceive her, and in such a way that allows her to be the sympathetic character she needs to be in this story, while still keeping her characterization true to Jane Austen’s book. It would have been much easier for Jennifer S to simply throw the canon characterization out the window and write an AU portrayal of Lady Catherine. And while I greatly enjoy AU portrayals of Lady Catherine in some fics (See The JAFF Index’s “Nicer Lady Catherine” category for some great examples.), I think it would have been a disservice to do so in this case, as that wasn’t the point of the story. In fact, as P&P showed us, Elizabeth needs to have her sometimes-prejudiced, cynical perceptions of people challenged, and this was a great opportunity to do so. Therefore, I greatly admire Jessica S for both her hard work and her skill in choosing the more difficult task of integrating Lady Catherine’s canon-characterization into this AU setting, and doing so with great success.
An interesting side-plot in “Excessively Attentive” involves Mr. Wickham’s backstory. I found it very intriguing because there was an ingenious explanation given that is far more detailed than the ones implied in canon (jealousy and laziness) as to why Mr. Wickham was such a wastrel and debauched gambler when he had the means and opportunities to make himself a gentleman, with only a little effort. (After all, if Mr. Collins could do it, Wickham certainly could have!) However, I will confess that how Wickham himself is characterized in this fic struck me as rather unlikely, specifically as relates to the Ramsgate debacle, and so I would consider that aspect of the story to be AU.
Overall I have to recommend this story for its rich emotional depth and creative application of this premise. The scene with the Bennets in Hunsford cottage brings tears to my eyes each time I read it, as does the scene when Elizabeth meets her eldest cousin. I remember first approaching this story with the expectation of a story that was silly and fluffy with all the depth of P&P removed in an effort to make everything perfect and easy for our favorite couple. Instead I found a story of great meaning in which the author has very obviously put serious consideration into every aspect of the story. I’ve seen some laughably awful renditions of this premise in which Elizabeth is wealthy or titled or somehow connected to Darcy’s family. If you have, too, please put them from your mind and know that “Excessively Attentive” stands on its own as a brilliant and unique “what-if” approach to Pride & Prejudice.
Sequel: There is a Fantasy-based AU (an AU of an AU?) outtake of this story, written around Halloween one year. That story, “All That is Gold…,” was very cute and a lot of fun. It should not be taken seriously as part of this fic’s “canon,” though. (Hmm… crack!fic based on a crack!fic?)
My only critique: All I can think of that might be a hindrance for others in enjoying this marvelous story is the fact that “Excessively Attentive” is not yet complete. The fact that the story went from regular weekly, then monthly updates to an 18-month gap between two of the last three chapters concerns me. However, the story’s major plot threads are already resolved; and so even if it were abandoned at this point, the story would still be well worth reading. I greatly appreciate the fact that the author has obviously gone to some trouble to keep it alive and address those main plot and character developments. Thus I’m taking the rare step (note how rarely I rec WIPs) of recommending “Excessively Attentive” regardless of whether or not it is ever completed.
ETA: A lovely update has been posted since I first wrote this review, which happily casts doubts upon my fears of the story being left incomplete! 🙂 I’m reposting this rec as a result of that update and my partial re-write of this post.