Story Title: Darcy Goes To War
Author Name: Mary Lydon Simonsen
Category: Pride & Prejudice, Published Book
Story Url: Story Link
Content Rating: Teen
Length: 260 pages
Story Summary: Spring 1944 – Britain is now in its fourth year of war. In order to defeat Adolph Hitler and his Nazis, everyone in the country must do his or her bit. While a young Elizabeth Bennet makes her contribution by driving a lorry, Fitzwilliam Darcy flies Lancaster bombers over Germany. Because of the war, both are wary of falling in love, but when the two meet near an airbase in Hertfordshire, all bets are off.
Set against the background of World War II, in Darcy Goes to War, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy battle something more than class differences. The greatest evil of the 20th Century is trying to bring Britain to its knees. In order to be together, they must survive the war.
This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved the setting and the way that Simonsen captured the look, smell and feel of WWII England. She has a fantastic eye for the kinds of details that make it all feel so tangible. I particularly loved the way she emphasized the difference between how war felt in London vs. how it felt in the country. I’ve never read any other books which pointed out that very pertinent difference. There is also a magnificent quote from Mr. Bennet, “it is not just an army or navy or air force that goes to war. It is a nation.” It’s quite possible that this quote sums up the book perfectly, particularly in light of the way the war caused grief and required sacrifice from every member of the Bennet family, as well as everyone else in England.
Lizzy is beautifully captured and perfectly adapted to the 1940s. I loved how unique of a character she is here. Her emotional defense mechanisms for surviving the war, her irritations, her delights – they’re all depicted so clearly that I felt like I knew this character personally by the end of the book, and I was greatly disappointed to be leaving her behind. I’d be thrilled to bits if there were a sequel, just so I could learn more about how Lizzy’s life proceeds.
Lydia is another whose characterization really stands out. Again, we see a 1940s adaptation that is just pitch perfect. She’s still giggly and foolish, but with the war affecting the populace more than seemed to be occurring in canon, and with the temptations before Lydia so much more explicit and transient, it’s interesting to see how that changed her story.
My Only Critique: I must admit I was disappointed by Darcy. When Lizzy first meets him, there is a moment similar to that at the Meryton Assembly, in which he insults her. But in this case, it’s because he’s drunk. I have to admit this was a big turn off for me. In fact, it is mentioned a few times throughout the story that Darcy drinks when he’s upset. That was a huge red flag for me. Darcy himself describes his temperament as “rude, abrupt, moody” and “mercurial.” All of those things could be said about Darcy in canon. However, adding alcohol and a likely case of PTSD to such a mix was a big concern. Additionally, he is so hurt and angry with his parents, that he has emotionally distanced himself from them. Simonsen writes, “Despite his mother living in the midst of this latest attack on London, her son’s demeanor was so devoid of emotion that it reminded [Lizzy] of the man she had first seen at The Hide and Hare staring at her with cold eyes, and the thought sent a chill through her.” Again, that’s a red flag for me. It makes me wonder what’s going to happen during their marriage? What happens when he’s having flashbacks or nightmares that send him into moody fits of despair? Will he drink? Will he emotionally distance himself from his wife and children? Maybe none of that is possible, but it felt like their courtship was so rushed (in spite of it stretching out over many months, they’re largely apart), that Elizabeth has no way of knowing, and we certainly don’t, either. Additionally, Darcy appears to have been a bit of a player before he met Lizzy, and he’s rather sexually aggressive with her up until the last act (when he finally seems to have understood the value in waiting), something which again bothered me.
It is entirely possible I’m reading too much into the situation based on my own personal experiences. Personally, I’m wary of men who are moody and drink or are sexually aggressive and don’t seem to understand how disrespectful it is of their girl’s wishes to keep pushing the boundaries. But if those aren’t hot buttons for you – and I’m quite willing to admit that I’m likely reading into things – then you’ll love the book even more than I did. And I really did adore everything else about this story.