This sequel to Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Darcy family, their friends, and their relations in the 10 years since the day Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. Drawing its history from the novels, maps, and other volumes comprising the Chawton House Library at the Center for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing, the novel explores questions of the characters’ potential lives beyond the close of the original masterpiece…What does England look like in the late Regency? And is there a place for Austen’s heroes and heroines in an England greatly changed by industrialization, with a new elite of fortunes made in trade and reformist politics? -Goodreads
You guys, I tried. I always have high hopes for Pride and Prejudice sequels, especially ones that are lauded by credible critics. It was also really exciting to learn that author Ava Farmer (aka Sandy Lerner) did a good deal of her research at the Chawton House Library, and had the support of that establishment.
Second Impressions is clearly the result of a great deal of research — but it all seems to be historical and geographical in nature. The sparkle and joi de vivre of Austen’s original novel is completely absent — replaced by dry, repetitive, and seemingly unending descriptions of the Darcy family’s visits to London, France, and Italy.
It felt like the characters—those beautiful, wonderful people—were shoved to the periphery of the story so that Farmer could instead describe places like Dover, Venice, Paris, and tiresome carriage rides between all these places, as well as wax philosophical about industrialization and governmental changes.
The absolute only thing that kept me reading was Georgiana Darcy (really the only character Farmer got right). She’s such a mixture of innocence and cynicism, and I loved seeing her become a stronger person.
Where’s the plot?
I was parched for more story: how do Lizzie and Darcy get along? What about Jane and Bingley? How’s that old crow Catherine de Bourgh doing? Every time the book started to get into some kind of plot, though, off Farmer take us to some boring description of…whatever. She even kills off two characters within the first several pages, minimizing the amount of actual storytelling she has to do.
I should have learned my lesson with Death Comes to Pemberley: the bulk of Austen “sequels” aren’t worth the paper on which they’re printed.
What would Austen think?
Austen would never have written anything like Second Impressions. Her novels were character-based, intelligent, and gently satirical — not geography books or debates about safe lighting techniques in the industrial age.
Farmer may have set out to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but what she ended up with is a dried-up husk of a “novel” that better serves as a guidebook to 18th century France and its tourism than as a novel.
What to read instead
The only good Pride and Prejudice “sequel” I’ve read is Pamela Aiden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, which is Austen’s novel told from Darcy’s perspective. It drags a little in the second book when describing what Darcy is up to between the time he leaves Netherfield and when he runs into Lizzie at Rosings, but overall the series is quick, witty, and marvelously written.
I’m glad that proceeds from the sales of Second Impressions benefit Chawton House; however, I’d rather have donated money on my own and not contributed to Farmer’s book sales.
And from the tone of most of the reviews posted by the Goodreads community, it looks like I’m not the only one who’s annoyed.