ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Normally I hate novels where contemporary writers take characters from classic books and imagine a life for them beyond the pages of the original. So I'm not sure why I picked this one up, as it follows the life of Charlotte Lucas, Lizzy Bennet's best friend in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice - but it was a surprisingly fine read! I've always had a sneaking sympathy for Charlotte, who married the bumbling Rev. Collins in order to have a place of her own, if not actually a life of her own. This novel picks up her life a few years after her marriage, when she has a daughter but has lost a son, when the numbing incompatability with her husband is slowly wearing her down. Charlotte decides to take a more active role in the parish, and in doing so meets Mr Travis, a tenant farmer. Travis is quiet and thoughtful, and they begin to appreciate each other's company. Sensible Charlotte will never be anything but, yet in this friendship she begins to understand there is another way the heart may live… The voice of Charlotte is rendered believably, the dreadful Lady Catherine de Bourgh is further realised, and even Mr Collins is given some depth. I enjoyed this very much (and it gave me an excuse to go back to the beloved original!) Lindy Jones
In this Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, not everyone has the luxury of waiting for love. Charlotte Collins knows this well . . .
Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford's vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Intelligent, pragmatic and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life: an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine.
In Mr Travis' company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard and seen. For the first time in her life Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart-and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman's life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman's wife.