"It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Among opening lines, Pride and Prejudice has one of the best. It promises a frolicsome tale with romance and wealthy men. The novel lives up to its beginning and leaves women longing for a Fitzwilliam Darcy all their own. Pride and Prejudice captured the reader and sketches such vivid and lovable characters that the reader is unwilling to let them go at the end of the novel. What kind of marriage do Lizzy and Darcy have? What about their kids? What happens to poor unfortunate Lydia, pedantic Mary, and dependent Kitty? How does Lady Catherine respond to her nephew's unfortunate alliance? Does Colonel Fitzwilliam, the second son of an earl, find himself a suitably wealthy wife? These questions beg for more time with these fascinating characters. Readers want a sequel.
Many authors attempt to write the sequel to Pride and Prejudice with varying degrees of success. Some authors try to imitate Jane Austen's vocabulary and writing style to bring back to life their favorite characters. These are noble efforts, but because it isn't a language style that comes easily to us it tends to feel artificial and at times difficult to understand the story line. Other authors have a different conception of the characters than I do. It is distressing to read about Lizzy or Jane saying or doing things that don't fit in with my conceptualization of them. The ones I like the best focus on story and character above language. They have some catch phrases thrown in and avoid slang, but are easy to read. The characters live up to most of their promise and the end has me sighing after a Darcy of my very own, just like Pride and Prejudice
There are common themes in many of the "sequels." Lizzy and Darcy remain wildly in love and have passionate fights. Jane has a brood of children in quick succession, where as Lizzy takes a while to get pregnant and has a difficult pregnancy. Lydia, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte rarely redeem themselves and are often portrayed as being foolish. Lady Catherine De Bourgh usually retains her bitter feelings towards Lizzy and makes her life as difficult as possible. However, in one version I read recently, Lady Catherine improved upon closer acquaintance. Much like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice she proves to be fiercely loyal to her family and her family in turns is accepting and exasperated by her quirks.
As good as some of the "sequels" are they just don't quite deserve to be sitting next to Pride and Prejudice in my book case and leaves me wishing that Jane Austen was the sort to have written sequels. Maybe that is part of what makes the book so enthralling: it contains a fairy tale ending, each person can come up with their own ideas of what happens next, and Darcy remains shrouded in mystery. Maybe if we had lived in that time we too could have a Darcy of our own.