Ahhh, it is a marvellous thing to be reintroduced to the characters of Jane Austin through the medium of The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley. This is the story of Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte, with the main characters from Pride and Prejudice making an appearance, but not playing a major part in this tale.
Charlotte tells her story in a gentle but compelling way, with much reflection and thoughtfulness. Because her story is told in the first person, we are confronted with the most intimate thoughts and feelings of a young woman whom society guided into life choices.
Mr William Collins, the obsequious parson who offered for Lizzie and Jane Bennett, and was refused, offers for the hand of Charlotte. She has to weigh up the pros and cons of such a marriage. It will give her security and a position of responsibility as a married woman.
She is a thoughtful and practical woman who knows that her life as a spinster will be one of hardship. She would have to live with her brother or family member, as an extra, in a household. The intense man William, who has proposed to Charlotte, is a well- meaning man, who would always be kind, but never really an intimate friend.
The decision is made to marry the Clergyman, and Charlotte begins to keep her own house and learn the role of a parson’s wife. She helps with the kitchen duties of preserving, and begins to learn about the needy people in the village. She begins to visit them and give them a few supplies. as well as her company.
Her relationship with her husband has only changed in a few ways. At night, “she feels his weight upon her.” After a few years, she gives birth to a daughter, Louisa. As she meets more people in the village and begins to think of her daughter’s life, Charlotte realises that other people have more depth in their relationships.
A local farmer comes to the Clergyman’s garden to plant some roses. An easy friendship begins between Charlotte and Mr Travis, the farmer. She becomes aware of the humour they share, and how he responds so naturally to Louisa. In rather melancholy reflections, Charlotte sees her sister falling in love, and the exchanged looks and smiles between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth. As many women in that time would come to realize, love has many depths.
While rather a sad reflection of the times, the story is a pleasure to read. We are re- introduced to the Bennett family, and see that Lizzie has a baby and Jane is happily married to Mr Bingley. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the overbearing family matriarch, is still as meddlesome as ever. However, this is Charlotte’s story and the author has done a grand job to continue Jane Austen’s work
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|