Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

Lucas by Elna Holst


Pride and Prejudice must be one of the most widely read books in the world. Centering around the Bennet sisters, the focus of that book is on Elizabeth Bennet. One of the most important relationships that Elizabeth has is with Charlotte Lucas, her best friend. A sensible (seemingly cynical) young lady, Charlotte surprises everyone by marrying the insufferable ass William Collins after Elizabeth refuses him. Charlotte’s marriage to Collins has always remained a problem. While it speaks volumes about the lot of women in that age and the choices, sacrifices and compromises they had to make, Collins is so beneath Charlotte is intelligence, polish and bearing that the pairing has always sat ill on readers.

There are a few more open threads in the book in terms of characters whose story is not quite completed. Caroline Bingley is one, but the more interesting unfinished story is Anne De Bourgh, the rather insipid daughter of Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Collins’ patroness. Lady De Bourgh intended that Anne and Darcy marry but Anne never is quite fleshed out (except rather disparagingly, particularly about being sickly). She never seemed to be a part of her mother’s machinations, seems more shadow than person and remains quite a mystery. We know nothing of who she is, her personality or her thoughts.

Elna Holst writes an offshoot (or companion piece) of the beloved Pride and Prejudice. Do not dismiss this one off as pastiche. This is Charlotte’s story as Mrs. Collins.

Charlotte is living a blameless, yet boring life with her pompous husband, William Collins. Charlotte finds relief in writing to her best friend, Elizabeth Darcy (née Bennet), letters that she never sends. So they are more in nature of a diary albeit addressed to a real person.

A part of Charlotte’s job as Mrs. Collins is to add to the numbers at Lady De Bourgh’s bi-weekly soirées which include Lady De Bourgh’s daughter, Anne (mostly, not always), and the local physician, Dr. Thomas Reid. One evening, there is an addition to the party, Dr. Reid’s cousin, Miss Ailsa Reid. The rather pale and unwell looking Miss Reid arrests Charlotte’s attention immediately; so much so that she even interrupts Lady De Bourgh’s inquisition of the newcomer to save the latter. Miss Reid invites Mrs. Collins for tea a few days later where she first meets Miss Reid’s rather casual maid, Lilly. The R&R has done wonders for Miss Reid who is now blooming with health and life. A friendship forms between Charlotte and Ailsa which somehow seems different from a normal friendship because there is an unnameable attraction between them.

 Holst does a marvellous job in maintaining the Pride and Prejudice continuum in terms of era, language, expressions, environment of the times and characterisations. She’s added a dimension of alternative sexuality to Charlotte Lucas since before she chooses to marry Collins. She takes the other unfinished character, Anne De Bourgh, and gives her more flesh and depth (though Anne’s story still needs to be told and can still do with a book of its own).

But her real triumph is Ailsa Reid. Ailsa is a captivating young lady who has a terrible past. Once her past is revealed, Ailsa becomes a much stronger character for her kindness, openness, lovingness, steadfastness and joie de vivre. She is a fantastic character.

The era that the book is set in makes a lot of plot points feasible and forgivable, which wouldn’t quite be so understandable if the book was a contemporary romance. The two primary issues would be adultery and the part where Charlotte disappears on Ailsa when Ailsa needs her the most. Yet, somehow, in the context, it is all admissible.

This is a wonderful book (with plenty of steaminess) written with exceptional art and craft.


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