Story Title: Becoming Elizabeth Darcy
Author Name: Mary Lydon Simonsen
Category: Pride & Prejudice, Published Book
Amazon url: Story Link
Content Rating: Mature
Length: 326 pages
Story Summary: In 2011, American Elizabeth Hannigan, suffering from the flu, falls into a coma and wakes up in the bed and body of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. Beth soon realizes that the only way back to her life in the 21st Century is through the Master of Pemberley, Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. But first she must uncover the dark secret that brought her to Pemberley in 1826 in the first place.
Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is a story of love, loyalty, and loss, where a modern woman is called upon to resolve the problems of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple.
If you are a fan of Lost in Austen, you will enjoy the time-travel novel, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy.
I stayed up all night recently to read this book. I didn’t mean to. It was one of those rare occasions when a book had me so captivated, that one minute it was bedtime for my children, and the next minute there was daylight coming through my window. In an attempt to pretend I hadn’t just blown a night of sleep, I abandoned the last ten pages of the book and belatedly went to bed. Well, I tried to abandon the book. I spent the morning dreaming up conclusions to this book which were so dreadful, I lunged for my nook upon awakening and inhaled those last pages.
I had previously read another book with a similar premise about a modern girl encountering a canon-centric Mr. Darcy. I really didn’t like it. The girl was loud, brash, and offensive by even modern standards. I never understood why we were supposed to believe that Mr. Darcy would’ve been interested in that character. She was worse than an exaggerated Lydia combined with all of Marianne Dashwood’s worst faults! I was therefore nervous about this story, but my love for all things by Mary Lydon Simonsen encouraged me to give it a try. I’m glad I did.
The protagonist, Beth, awakens in Elizabeth Bennet Darcy’s body in 1826, while her modern self is in a coma back in 2011 New Jersey. A big mystery throughout the book is, where is Elizabeth Darcy?
As a Janeite, Beth is able to pull off a reasonable facsimile of Mrs. Darcy, though it’s interesting to see where she blows her cover. With such a setup, the author is able to teach her readers oodles of interesting tidbits about what life would be like in Regency England, without dipping into any boring exposition. I loved the natural way in which she included details such as dental care, hygiene and what’s for dinner.
And that brings me to one of my favorite aspects of the story.
As with most fans of period dramas, historical novels, and of course Jane Austen, I’ve often imagined how I would survive in a situation similar to that of Simonsen’s protagonist, Beth. I would likely have the same hangups that Beth had, and I would likely be just as desperate for changes on the dinner menu. However, I had never thought about the practical issues which would make the latter such a challenging alteration. Where would a girl in the early 19th century get olive oil? It had never occurred to me that olive oil wouldn’t be readily available. It’s a trivial item, but it’s a great example of the attention to detail within this book. There is no glossing over of the day-to-day practical dilemmas in a rush to overly romanticize the period. A husband has ultimate authority over his wife, to a frightening degree, diseases are rampant, childbirth is frightening, and there is no pasta in Georgian England. Oh, the humanity!
I absolutely recommend this book. It’s charming, it’s absorbing, it’s full of rich, historical details, and the basic plot is both poignant and fascinating. The bits of humor peppered throughout the story make it a truly fun read.
My Only Critique: From a technical standpoint, there’s nothing to criticize. The only possible critique I can think of contains a spoiler, so be forewarned. Beth and Mr. Darcy do dance around an adulterous relationship. Within the context of that moment, it is explained fairly well, and it isn’t anything I had a problem within that scene. But technically, they do push the envelope a bit. Normally, I won’t read stories in which there’s anything vaguely resembling adultery. If, like me, the mere hint of infidelity is enough to ruin a story for you, please keep in mind that the story was NOT ruined for me. And without spoiling you even further, it’s rather difficult for me to explain why. Perhaps I can best do it with a comparison. If you’ve watched Casablanca, you’ll remember that Ilsa and Rick are involved in a relationship in Paris. Why was it not considered adultery for them to be together at the time? The same answer applies here. Read the book. You’ll love it.