Book Review: Follies Past by Melanie Kerr

folliespast“I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being…”
So begins Mr. Darcy to lay before Elizabeth his faithful narrative of Mr. Wickham’s villainy toward his sister, Georgiana. The facts he sets out are brief but potent. They contain a story unto themselves, and that story is the subject of this book.
Taking its facts from Austen’s own words, Follies Past opens almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice itself, at Pemberley, at Christmas. Fourteen-year-old Georgiana has just been taken from school and is preparing to transfer to London in the spring. It follows Georgiana to London, to Ramsgate and into the arms of the charming and infamous Mr. Wickham.
To read this book is to step back into the charming world of Jane Austen’s England, to pass a few more hours with some of her beloved characters, sympathetically portrayed as they might have been before ever they came to Netherfield, and to discover a host of new characters each with engaging histories of their own. Authentic in its use of language and meticulously researched, it is a truly diverting entertainment

Sent to me by the publishers in ebook format, in exchange for a review. I have a great interview (I think so anyway!) that I published a few days ago, and it can be found here.

Am in two minds about this book. Do I think it equals Austen’s original? No. (Then again, I said something similar about P. D. James’ “Death Comes to Pemberley“). Whilst most of the language used seemed to be time appropriate, there was the odd phrase that seemed a little anachronistic (would Colonel Fitzwilliam really be looking for a “life partner”?). I felt there was a bit more personal introspection about someone’s behaviours than in Austen’s novels. Austen would not have dwelt so long on having her P&P characters dwell on whether x was appropriate or not – she was of the time she was writing about, writing for an audience who already knew the rules. Caroline Bingley tips her cap at Wickham, but disappears from the second half of the book almost as soon as she finds out the truth about Wickham and his low birth (and that he is viewing her much as she is viewing Mr Darcy).

However…..reading purely as a Regency based romance novel (where some characters share the same names as characters in other books), the story is rather good! There are heroes and villains, young innocent love, romance, blackmail, honour, dignity, elopements, dancing, spurned engagements, family pressure over marrying for money over love etc. The character Clare is strong, and could have easily had a book dedicated to herself and finding  her romance (without the need for involving the whole P&P vehicle). Anne De Bourgh gets a decent billing, and some explanation of her general silence in the original book (why talk when no one listens?)

Would I have read it if it didnt have the “prequel to P&P” label? I dont know. Maybe.  Did I enjoy it? Yes I did!

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