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Wickham’s Sordid Story Before and After P&P
I am a massive fan of Jane Austen fanfiction. In fact, my earliest reading time and space on my first Kindle were nearly exclusively in this subgenre as I went through nursing school. So I always delight in finding new-to-me authors and new stories. This story and the author were both new to me. The focus, as one would guess from the title, is the villain we all love to hate, George Wickham. The story takes us from his and Denny’s early days in London just after the senior Mr. Darcy’s death. If you ever wondered how Wickham managed to squander those thousands of pounds from the Darcys in only a few years, the author does a good job showing how he did it. We also see a detailed account of him and Georgianna at Ramsgate. Of course, it wouldn’t be a book about Wickham without having a section on his time in Meryton. The book continues to follow his married life with Lydia to his life as a soldier at Waterloo, with a final chapter wrapping up the way the course of where his life was heading.
My goodness! Denny and Wickham are blackguards and reprobates, out for only their own gain, spending money on all manner of vices. I did, however, quite enjoy the banter between Wickham and Denny in the first part of the book. The leopard does not change his spots much after marriage. When Lydia goes back to her family’s home for the end of her first pregnancy, Wickham almost immediately starts to strut around Newcastle with his mistress.
What is a mishmash of writing techniques! The first part of the book is written from Wickham’s perspective in standard third-person storytelling format. Then, the author starts with what I’m going to call the Dear Reader sections, where suddenly an omniscient narrator leaps off the digital page and begins to tell us about the story. I found these Dear Reader sections to be a distraction, pulling me out of the book. A fair portion of the novel is told in epistolary fashion, with many letters going back and forth between various people; these letters are interspersed with multiple Dear Reader sections. Again, I found all this to be an unusual form of storytelling, and one that I did not particularly like. I guess I am so modern in my sensibilities that I prefer straight-up third-person past perspective.
Much of the language, especially in the Dear Reader sections I think, tries too hard to mimic early 19th-century writing. The prose felt ponderous. I believe the writer is English, so there are definitely some punctuation differences between American and British English that looks strange my American eye. That said, though, there are plenty of similarities between British English and American English about proper punctuation, grammar, and usage; sometimes the author had issues with what I believe are common rules between our variants of English. In prose that is already heavy and with an outdated feel, the signposts of correct punctuation would be of particular use.
That said, if you find the character of Wickham to be an interesting one, you will most likely enjoy this detailed narrative of his life from a young reprobate to a middle-aged gentleman farmer.