Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Twilight of the Abyss by Casey Childers

I really thought I would have been up and posting again long before this date, but I obviously underestimated the difficulty of writing in a new environment. When I should have been packing pre-move, I was blogging furiously, and now that I am settled in the new house, I can think of almost nothing but cleaning, tidying, and rearranging when I should be writing. However, I do believe I am over the hump and life might now really, finally, resume its routine. Tomorrow's dose of Janeicillin will be delivered on time, and I now feel ready to start reviewing those novels which I read in the old house and have thus far neglected in the new.

I really enjoyed Twilight of the Abyss: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, which was published right around the same time as First Impressions (when I was checking Amazon stats compulsively) and is almost the antithesis of my very happy book. Casey Childers uses the same pivotal moment at the Meryton Assembly as I do, having Elizabeth and Darcy dance together and quickly fall in love, but while my tale is all playfulness, hers is an exploration of the depths the human spirit can sink when love is denied. The novel opens upon a heartbroken Elizabeth, deeply depressed and confused, having been abandoned by the man she deeply loves and who she knows loves her in return. Jane and Bingley are married and have moved to an estate in Yorkshire, right along the coast, and it is this location that provides the dramatic backdrop to Elizabeth's sufferings. Events are told along two time lines, the present interspersed with flashbacks to the altered events of Pride and Prejudice. At first, I was concerned this format would prove confusing, but Ms. Childers pulls it off smoothly.

It was my faith that things would somehow work out that allowed me to finish this book, as my distress for Elizabeth was so acute that I had to repeatedly put it down and bawl my eyes out. Ms. Childers' obvious love for the characters kept me going, for no true Janeite could write such a novel without coming to the relief of our beloved hero and heroine in the end. I was not disappointed. And while the journey was difficult, it was well worth the struggle.

My favorite aspect of the book is the development of Jane Bingley. Watching her sister's distressing decline riles this notoriously sedate lady's anger, which she quite rightly directs at Darcy. Austen never tests the boundaries of Jane's devotion to Elizabeth, but Ms. Childers gives her the opportunity to be indignant, even cruel when necessary, in defense of her dearest friend and companion. She shines in this role, one usually assigned to Elizabeth, as demonstraited in the following scene:

Elizabeth's fever broke less than a day later. Jane's unsolicited care and attention brought about her recovery more quickly than anyone expected. That day, Elizabeth was sitting up in her bed, taking some broth brought up to her from the kitchen. Jane had been silent at her bedside for some time, and Elizabeth decided to reassure her sister so that she might see to other things.

"Jane, you surely do not have to sit with me. I will be quite well here on my own."

Jane shook her head thoughtfully, but it was several minutes before she replied. "No, you are not well. You have not been well for some time. Even now, you are not trying to be well. All of this could have been avoided if you had kept enough sense about you to care for your own health. You have had me worried and frightened for you again and again for months."

Elizabeth was taken aback by her sister's tone. She opened her mouth to speak, but Jane held up her hand. "I do not want you to say anything, Lizzy. For all you have had to say to me for months is that you are well, and I should not worry. You have nothing of substance to say, you lie to me - if not literally, then by omission. I do not wish to hear another word from your lips until you are willing to be honest with me," Jane finished, her voice caught in a sob.

Elizabeth looked at her hands, ashamed. Jane's words mortified her, and she knew every word of it was true. She turned back to her sister, tears of regret in her eyes. 

"I am very glad you are well. Perhaps you might come downstairs tomorrow," Jane said, leaving the room.

I think this is so well done. Jane's anger isn't a passionate display, of the style Elizabeth is so renowned for, due to her handling of Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine, but a well-chosen expression of long contemplated sentiments. I love seeing Jane doing what is right, even when it is against her nature, and there is nothing that could have benefited Elizabeth more at this juncture in the story than a sharp set down, seeing as a swift kick in the seat is out of the question.

What of Darcy through all this? What could have happened to lay the feisty Elizabeth Bennet so low? A scandal in his family, involving the ever intriguing elder Fitzwilliam brother, drives him away, but I will leave readers to pursue that storyline without interference. This is a wonderful book which I highly recommend to all Austen fans - particularly those who felt First Impressions too happy (which would be my own criticism of my book, were anyone to ask me). Here is a nice dose of drama, achieved without reliance on the tawdry or sexual. Twilight of the Abyss is a plunge into all the intensity of pain and happiness that love, so fickle, invokes.


  1. Another Austen sequel I must add to my list. :)

  2. Hi Katherine! Are we not fortunate that there is a seemingly endless supply?

  3. It's great to be reading one of your again! This sounds likea very intriguing variation! I enjoyed the comparison with your own novel.

  4. Hi Meredith! It's great to finally be blogging again! I've missed it. It was hard for me not to compare this book to my own, as they are strikingly different while premised on the same concept.

  5. Hi Alexa, I was so happy to see your review of Casey's wonderful book. IMHO, she's one of the most talented, young writers I've ever known, and she's just as sweet as she is talented.

    Love your blog!

  6. Hi PamM. Do you know her personally? How fascinating! The book was quite well done and look forward to reading more of her work.

  7. Yes, I do know her personally. We have a group of ladies from around the Atlanta area (both writers and readers) who try to meet each month for lunch. That's where I first met Casey. We sat together at the table so I was able to get to know her fairly quickly. She's the youngest and I'm the oldest in the group, so I've adopted her as another Granddaughter. She was married last Saturday to her own Darcy.

  8. Thanks for sharing, PamM! I tried to find more information about her online when I was writing this post, but came up with nothing. Do you know if she has a blog or website?

  9. She's been on her honeymoon but is back now. I sent your review to her today so, hopefully, she will contact you.

  10. Thanks! I'd be very interested in speaking with her.

  11. Lovely review. I am definitely going to have to pick this up some time.

    (Oh, and I'm reposting a snippet...)

  12. Hi Misty. Please do! I am happy for you to repost anything you fancy. Still thinking about Mr. Tilney ...