Book Review: Elizabeth and Darcy 1900 by Florence Gold

Elizabeth & Darcy 1900: Jane Austen Revisited

Jane Austen’s works have been a must read in the world of romance for years. Somehow, she managed to capture the essence of people in books whose plots have little more than families living out their lives. Still, they have captured the hearts of many readers. So when Florence Gold took some of the concepts of Jane Austen’s works and applied them to the time of World War I, I was intrigued. And, as it turns out,  Elizabeth and Darcy was very interesting. It explores the history of Jane Austen in all her glory and criticisms, while also exploring the love story that exists separately—or perhaps not so separately—from Austen’s works. 

1. Thoughts on the plot

This plot centres on Elizabeth Jane Austen, the original Jane Austen’s grandniece. She is a lecturer at Oxford in 1916 and must work with Nevin Darcy Lancashire, a Captain sent home from the front due to injury, in order to write a forward to the new printings of Jane Austen’s works. While trying to convince Nevin of the merits of Jane Austen’s works, Elizabeth must also explore her own mind and heart. This plot is actually quite interesting in that it combines an overview of the history and analysis of Jane Austen’s pieces while also investing in the lives of their “modern” counterparts. Some of the characters mimic those in Austen’s books, as do some of the situations. But there is much more that goes on in this story, which is evident of how we have both changed and stayed the same from the time of Austen. In a nutshell, I quite liked the plot and found it very fun, with enough seriousness to be able to become thoroughly engrossed.

2. Thoughts on the main character

I would say that Elizabeth in Gold’s book mirrors the Elizabeth in Austen’s, only she is more self-aware. I do not know if this ability to introspect comes from the situation—an Oxford education and a job—or the history—1916, right in the middle of one of the most devastating wars in all of history—but it is fascinating to read. She is obviously capable and yet has enough insecurities that the reader can relate to her. It was quite entertaining to watch her go through the romance with Nevin—or I should say, Darcy. Their relationship was character-enhancing and also quite charming. I think there were bits where Elizabeth was incredibly stubborn or foolish, but on the whole I liked her quite a lot. 

3. Favourite part

That is a difficult one. Possibly the confrontation between the Duchess of Lancashire and Elizabeth and her Darcy. That was quite entertaining. I can say no more, because of spoilers, but I shall say that it is reminiscent of a certain scene in Pride and Prejudice.

4. Critique

This was such a good book, a combination of history and literary analysis and romance, that it is difficult to want to critique this book. But there was one bit where things just sort of fell apart and that bit was the ending. The story was moving along very well, and then everything just sort of stopped. Yes, it was a strategic point of ending. Yes, there was history to consider. But even one more interaction between Elizabeth and Darcy would have been enough to tie this up extremely well instead of just sort of dropping you off the edge of a cliff. It was such a shame, because the rest of the book was wonderful.

Given that this book was, overall, extremely well written and researched, with all the fascination a good story and characters can bring, I would like to say that this book is excellent. However, the ending did sort of jar me enough that I shall say, instead, that it was VERY GOOD.