Review: Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken

lady-catherines-necklaceLady Catherine’s Necklace
By Joan Aiken
Thorndike Press, 2000

This variation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, is set a few years after the events of Austen’s original. Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne, are residing quietly at Rosings Park when a freak April snowstorm strands the elegant Ralph Delaval and his sister Priscilla in the neighborhood.

Lady Catherine allows these elegant unfortunates to stay at Rosings, despite Anne’s misgivings. The mystery deepens when Lady Catherine goes on a journey, one of her prize necklaces is declared to be a fake, and Lady Catherine herself is apparently kidnapped.

As a long-time reader of Jane Austen fan fiction, I’m used to authors taking liberties with the original storylines, but Aiken’s book begins with at least one impossibility, which nearly caused me to stop reading the book entirely.

Based on all of the events that were alluded to have happened since Pride and Prejudice ended and Aiken’s book began — Mr. Bingley has bought his own home, Mr. Bennett has passed away, Charlotte’s first child is several years old — Lady Catherine’s daughter Anne, who was a pale sickly creature of age to be out in company in Austen’s original, should have been in her early twenties (at least) at the start of this story. And yet there she was, a blooming girl of 17, out digging in the garden and chatting up painters.

Since Aiken’s story is presumably set several years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, that means Lady Catherine was furious with Mr. Darcy for not marrying a 12 year old girl.

Perhaps she was. But I have to say, I devoutly hope not.

Maria Lucas seemed quite a bit livelier in Aiken’s version too, but compared to the puzzle of Anne’s miracle cure and extreme youthfulness, this was easy for me to reconcile. Maria would have spent several years in society by this point. She probably would have attained a bit of polish.

As I read, I quickly realized that I had to make a choice — either stop reading altogether or stop looking for faithfulness to Pride and Prejudice and enjoy Aiken’s narrative as an only tangentially related tale loosely set in more or less the same world.

I had read other Austen variations by Joan Aiken before and enjoyed them, so I chose to continue reading this one. And in the end, I was repaid with a fun little Regency story set in a world and populated by characters that were just familiar enough to be comfortable companions for a stormy afternoon.

Who would enjoy this book
Jane Austen fans who don’t require their Pride & Prejudice fan fiction to be all that faithful to the original. Better yet, folks who haven’t necessarily read Jane Austen’s novels at all, and are just looking for a light-hearted and somewhat silly Regency novel with which to pass a lazy afternoon.

Related Links:


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Adult Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.