In this Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, not everyone has the luxury of waiting for love. Charlotte Collins knows this well . . .
Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Intelligent, pragmatic and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life: an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine.
In Mr Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard and seen. For the first time in her life Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart-and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.
The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley is a debut fiction novel and retelling of Pride and Prejudice, shining the spotlight on Charlotte Lucas and what her life becomes after she chooses to marry Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. Collins.
Though this work is entirely fictional, there are so many elements that ring true to the original work — the characters, relationships, atmosphere and setting. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte married Mr Collins not because she was in love with him (she hardly knew him) but because of security. She was almost thirty and had no other options for a companion. By marrying Mr Collins, she would stop being an embarrassment to her parents and could start her own life.
In The Clergyman’s Wife, Molly takes Charlotte beyond the pages of Pride and Prejudice and gives her a protagonist’s story. What if she does have the option of falling in love with someone but it’s too late?
“My skin prickles with mirth; I press my lips together to keep myself from laughing. Mr Travis meets my eyes and his lips tip up, just a little, at the corners; then he ducks his head and appears to focus entirely on the roses once more. I find myself gazing at the sun-browned back of his neck, the first knob of his spine just visible above his shirt collar, and have to force myself to look away.”
Charlotte Lucas is an incredibly intelligent character, but her life with Mr. Collins is — as readers expected — uninspiring and rather boring. Charlotte doesn’t have the sharp tongue or the brashness that her friend Elizabeth has, and she settles for what is comfortable. However, given that this book is set in the early nineteenth century, it’s entirely credible. She can’t afford to wait for true love.
When Charlotte meets Mr. Travis, she feels an instant connection. The two are alike in personality and Charlotte finds herself drawn to him. She starts to understand what emotional intimacy is and what it’s like to have someone else truly care about what you want in life. Mr Travis is kind and considerate and treats her with more respect that Mr Collins does. Charlotte finds herself wanting intimacy with Mr Travis, which is something she’s never experienced with her husband.
But, building a life with Mr Travis is something that no one in that time period would approve of. Charlotte struggles with what her head and her heart are telling her.
“When we reach the lane, I have to force myself to keep walking. Though there is no true impropriety, I suddenly feel that I cannot face William — or worse, Lady Catherine — seeing us walking together. But we reach the parsonage gate unobserved.”
Whilst the book is a little dry at times, the prose and dialogue are lyrical, poetic and true to the time period. The vocabulary and language is evocative and in tune with Pride and Prejudice, and so it’s not a stretch to think of The Clergyman’s Wife as a companion novel.
Recommended for fans of Pride and Prejudice, and other Jane Austen novels. Fans of romance and historical romance will also love this.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Clergyman’s Wife
Allen and Unwin Book Publishers