“Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl” is a collection of ten short stories, each offering the reader an alternative Elizabeth Bennet, or perhaps it is better to say the same Elizabeth Bennet but one who finds herself in very different circumstances.
The third story, “Atmospheric Disturbances”. was a splendid, spirited story that I think captured the nature of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
I was impressed that it did this not through long paragraphs of analysis but through a mix of well-judged, believable dialogue that artfully displayed wit and passion and deep emotion, and through the accomplished incorporation of the weather as an extended metaphor for the constantly brewing storm of tension and affection between Elizabeth and Darcy is always on the brink of unleashing.
The story takes place in 1812, a few months before the wedding between Elizabeth and Darcy. It starts in a drawing-room which proves to be unable to contain the emotion between them and concludes, quite appropriately, beneath a tree on the brow of a hill in he midst of a snowstorm.
It’s hard to bring tension into a scene about pouring tea in a drawing-room but it was managed here by telling me that the indomitable Elizabeth Bennet was afraid but not telling me what she was afraid of. Elizabeth’s response to fear was exactly what I expected it to be
“… she was no coward. She did not shrink back or attempt to delay the inevitable, but dove in, determined that if she must reap the whirlwind, let her at least be the one to sow the wind.”
What follows is a fight of sorts between Elizabeth and Darcy. The kind of fight that only two strong-willed people who love each other but do not yet really understand each other can have.
I’ve never quite been able to imagine Elizabeth and Darcy as a “happy ever after” couple, wrapped in the warmth of their mutual love and lost in blissful peace.
How could they be who they are and live like that? And if they stopped being who they are or pretended to be someone different, how could they be happy with themselves or each other?
Those questions are what this story explored and it did it in a way that completely captured the nature of these two people through their dialogue and their actions and made me care about them all over again.
I loved this thought of Elizabeth’s:
“What a strange thing, this love! It thrived not on the absence of discord but from the sharing of it.”.
My Inner-pedant stirred only once, at the use of the word serviette for what should, in 1812 in England, still have been a napkin, Serviette didn’t enter English usage until 1818. Still, the story was so much fun and the characters were so true to the original that I ignored him and read on.